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Boxes, boxes, everywhere.

Hey, 2013! [insert non-blogging excuse here] Actually, I purposely waited to write about it until I had positive things to write. So let’s start with the happy things that are happening!

Last summer, my husband had a great internship that ended with a full-time job offer when he graduates, which he will this spring. If you don’t know, Brian got out of the army three years ago and has been going to school on the GI Bill since then. It’s been three years of limbo and waiting, and that’s finally about to end. We’re not moving out-of-state or to a bigger city (it’s actually smaller than where we live now), but a well-paying, steady job is more important than moving to a place that’s more vegan-friendly. I plan on focusing on the positives of small town living, like having room for a decent garden and trying to make more of my own foods like jam and shit. Our new house has a large pantry basement so I can finally live out my dreams of becoming a vegan extreeeeeeeeeeeme couponer!

Like the title implies, I am surrounded by half-packed boxes. But this is more about subscription boxes, which are all the rage right now, and me procrastinating. Since i’m moving to a smaller town, AND I really like getting mail, I decided to try out a few. I really wanted to find an all-vegan beauty box, but that hasn’t happened yet, but here’s what i’ve tried so far (apologies for the lack of pictures):

Conscious Box: Let’s get the big diss out of the way first. Conscious Box is not an all-vegan service and they’ve made it clear that they don’t really care much about their vegan customers. I ordered the box that was put together by The Vegan Zombie, and it came with a brand of eyeliner I wasn’t familiar with, so I checked the ingredients and it had beeswax (The Vegan Zombie did not actually pick that product out so it’s not their fault at all). When I mentioned it and asked them to announce it so other people could be aware, they didn’t. I canceled my box, but next month they had a lotion that also had beeswax in it, and when someone complained they replied on facebook that it was from ‘magic bees’ and therefore vegan (and then someone smarter than them removed the comment). They also did not feel the need to let their customers know about this mix-up. That same month, a lot of people got their standard box instead of the vegan one.

I know some people don’t have a problem with bee products, but I do and most people I know do, so I don’t trust Conscious Box. I also think their customer service is shit, and that’s the bottom line for two big thumbs down. It’s okay for companies to make mistakes, it’s how they handle their mistakes that make me decide if I want to continue buying from them or not.

Healthy Surprise: I actually got this for my father-in-law as a Christmas present, because I knew it’d be right up his alley (and that he’d share it with me). If you like to try new snacks all the time and don’t have any interest in household or beauty products, this one is for you! Healthy Surprise is always vegan (no honey here!), gluten-free, soy-free, and corn-free. There are sometimes nuts and grains, and there is always something chocolate, apple chips, and either a kale snack or a seaweed snack. We don’t like every single thing we get, but that’s the beauty of a snack box: you only get one so if you don’t like it, no big. Please note the Healthy part of the name, there aren’t any Tings or Go Max Go bars in here, but they are still snack foods. The price seems kind of high, but as long as you don’t get the smallest box you get free shipping, and these are full-sized products that aren’t cheap.

Vegan Cuts (affiliate link): Some people were disappointed in the Vegan Cuts box when it first came out, so I held off getting one. But after a few boxes, they said they were going to make it better and put more things in it, and at $20 shipped I couldn’t really argue against one box.  Vegan Cuts boxes aren’t all full-sized products, which is fine with me because if I really like something, i’m going to order the full-sized version anyway, and i’d rather get to sample 10 items than get 5 full-sized products.  I actually have pictures of these from instagram:

So far, i’m pretty pleased.  The only thing that i’ve either not totally loved (Eli’s Earth bar, zomg) or at least liked was that Barre…bar.  No one is going to make me like spirulina, sorry!  If you live in a big city you probably won’t find the Vegan Cuts box super exciting.  But if you’re like me and you’re always jealous of your internet buddies who get to try all of the new vegan products right away or live within an hour of a Whole Foods, I think the Vegan Cuts box is a good choice.  It’s a little bit smaller than the smallest Healthy Surprise box, but they’ll send you junk food and it seems like one or two non-food products to try.  It’s also very affordable.

Final thoughts:  I can’t recommend Conscious Box to anyone, but if you don’t care about beeswax, a lot of people seem to like it.  Healthy Surprise is fun, but I wouldn’t get it if I wasn’t splitting it with someone, they repeat a lot of items which is good or bad depending on how much you like kale and apple chips.  So far Vegan Cuts is my favorite, but i’d still like to find a beauty themed one, since vegan/organic beauty products can be expensive and it sucks to commit to a $30 bottle of moisturizer only to find out you hate the smell or it breaks you out.

(All boxes were paid for by me, no freebies here.)

posted: April 10, 2013
under: food, review

VeganMoFo: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Man, when I burn out on MoFo I REALLY burn out on MoFo. I wish I had some good excuse, but I don’t. I can’t even say I ran out of movies ready to go, I have had a post for Showgirls/Conair open on my computer, half written, for four days. But I counted posts and I still got 15 posts up, and the goal is 20, so I only failed a teensy bit.

A few people have said I should keep doing dinner and a movie menus all year long, and while I do want to keep doing this as my MoFo theme for as long as feasible (until i’m so desperate i’m doing Dinner and a National Geographic Documentary), I had a few that I made stuff for so I absolutely want to squeeze those out. And I might throw up a menu on occasion, but for now: I am so sick of watching movies, dudes. I had to re-watch a lot of the movies I posted to get proper menu inspiration, and on top of my regular tv, I just. I kind of want to go outside? Maybe get away from the glowing box? ANYWAY, onto my last post for MoFo this year.

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He hates these trees! Stay away from the trees!

I was lucky enough to catch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter at our local drive-in this summer. When you live in the Land of Lincoln, you get kind of numb to all of the Lincoln stuff. I drive past Lincoln’s home all the time, i’ve rubbed the nose of the lucky bust at Oak Ridge plenty. So not only did I find this movie fun because of the action and normal, non-sparkly vampires, but because it renewed my interest in Abraham Lincoln and the time he spent here. I found out that his human cohorts in the movie are all real people, although their roles in his life are slightly tweaked to better fit the movie. Learin’!

The movie doesn’t try to alter the course of history, it simply interjects the idea that from early adulthood all the way up to his death, President Lincoln was also a vampire hunter. It all starts when he seeks revenge on the man who poisoned his mother (in actuality, Nancy Lincoln died from milk sickness, go vegan!) and discovers that he isn’t so easy to kill. And he has fangs and is really strong and whoa boy is he kind of a snarky dick about it. But luckily, Abe meets a guy who wants to train him. Yet you never see this dude kill vampires himself…curious. Anyway, all through moving to Springfield, meeting Mary Todd, and getting into politics, Abe is killin’ vampires left and right. There is killing, war, hijinks, fights on burning trains, and as we all know, eventually Mr. Lincoln is going to take a trip to the theater.

This movie was filmed in 3D, which I don’t like because when you’re at the drive-in you’re like, “God damn, these angles are annoying.” But there is lots of crazy good action and stunts, I half expected Milla Jovovich to pop out at the plantation and start shooting some bitches in the head. You wouldn’t think that Abraham Lincoln and the words ‘thrill ride’ go together, but they do! If you like action flicks but hate the dumbed down dialog, you will like this movie. It has received mixed reviews, but pfffft on what anyone but me thinks.

This is an indie flick so there aren’t any huge stars, but a few very familiar faces: Anthony Mackie (2Pac in Notorious, The Hurt Locker), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Deathproof, Scott Pilgrim), Jimmi Simpson (Always Sunny, Breakout Kings), Marton Csokas (LotR trilogy), and some guy named Alan Tudyk who likes to play with dinosaur figures and talk like a pirate.

If you are going to watch one of the few movies that will ever feature Springfield, you have to eat our one local delicacy: The Horseshoe. I’ve posted about it before, but earlier this year the Illinois Times posted an article about the history of the horseshoe, how it’s changed over the years (now made mostly with gross frozen fries), and the original cheese sauce recipe. I tucked that away in my brain because if you look at the recipe (way down at the bottom), it’s so easy to veganize. So easy that i’m not going to pretend I ‘made’ the recipe by swapping, so here are some step-by-steps:

1. Acquire or make a loaf of white bread, bake if needed. Slice into toastable thickness. Hide the bread from the cat.
2. Slice some potatoes (also if you are doing veggies, those too), dice them, whatever shape you want, if you’re doing wedges I suggest baking over cooking in a pan. I sliced them into rounds that were thick enough so they wouldn’t come out like chips, just crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. I also fried them in a cast iron pan.
3. While the potatoes are cooking, follow the recipe for the original cheese sauce with vegan subs (we used oil, almond milk, PBR, and a wedge of Daiya cheddar). You’ll spend a few minutes just poking the potatoes and stirring the sauce and singing to the dogs.
4. Now is the time to do your ‘meat’. It can be various veggies, a portobello cap, whatever fake meat or soy thing you desire. We used Upton’s seitan because they are Chicago-based (and it’s delicious), so I just waited for my potatoes to be done, moved them to a paper towel, drained the oil, and cooked the Upton’s in the cast iron.
5. Toast your bread.
6. Assemble! Lay 1-2 pieces of bread (ours was pretty small so we did two) down, pile with potatoes and your meaty stand-in, drown in cheesy cheese sauce. Dig in and remember to name your food baby after me.

Obviously this is not a healthy recipe. Lots of places do offer vegetable horseshoes (and you’ll notice that the one pictured in the article is vegetarian), so it’s possible to do it up right and get some veggies in, but you can’t make a fat-free horseshoe. To even try would be depressing. I’m just adding this as a disclaimer. And yes, it is RICH. The portion size of a modern horseshoe is so insane, way bigger than what Brian and I made, and I couldn’t finish mine. Also as a disclaimer, the cheese sauce does not look pretty as it cools down and congeals, so either eat it all ASAP or be prepared to hide your leftovers from the sight of anyone who will go, “EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU EATING GROSS VEGAN”.

Dessert: If you have the room, you probably don’t have the desire to make anything fancy. Lucky for you, Mr. Lincoln wasn’t big on food and preferred simple desserts, like a plate of fruit and nuts. So microwave ‘baked’ apples sound pretty perfect for our Abe dessert.

posted: October 31, 2012
under: food, recipes, veganmofo

Vegan sandwiches, get in my mouth.

So after my cookbook lovefest, I got tons of offers pouring in for me to review cookbooks!

Okay, not really. But months ago, I asked Celine if when her new book came out, I could get a review copy. Not just because I like free things, but because I knew it was going to be a winner. The vegan cookbook market may be a little saturated right now, but is there another sandwich book? I don’t think there is! And after knowing Celine online for years I knew i’d be getting interesting recipes and her gorgeous photos, and I was not disappointed. Here she teamed up with Tamasin Noyes, author of American Vegan Kitchen, which was her first book and has done amazingly well.

One big concern that I did have was picky-husband-compatibility. My husband hates almost all vegetables and I find a way to make a vegetable that he will tolerate an average of once every three years. None of these are in raw form. Obviously sandwiches in general mean lettuce, tomato, etc. So before doing anything else, I immediately flipped through looking for Brian friendly recipes. Now if you have your own picky eater to serve your mileage may vary based on what they will and won’t eat (for instance, my husband likes yellow mustard, but won’t eat whole grain or any other ‘fancy’ kind), but there are plenty of sandwiches that have no raw vegetables, no veggies at all (like the Peanut Butter Banana Bacon Sandwiches), or it has mushrooms or avocado, which he does like. Relieved, I flipped back to the beginning.

The tips section is short but sweet, mostly telling us how to keep the sandwiches travel-friendly. There is a short pantry list, half of it is stuff you probably know what it is (but any good cookbook assumes that this is someone’s first cookbook), the other half explains some less-familiar things like soy wrappers and maca powder. There’s also a list of the recipe icons.

Onto the recipes! Obviously the bulk of the book is standard toppings-on-bread sandwiches, but that doesn’t mean they’re boring. There are classics that you would expect like the BLT, Reuben, and Meatball Sub, there are a ton of internationally inspired sandwiches. Many of the short recipe descriptions are a mini history lesson of these sandwiches from around the world, so the book is a good read, which is important to me. I think my favorite sandwich upon first sight was The Dagwood, which is inspired by Blondie and Dagwood! I also enjoyed that Celine and Tami’s husbands both got to design their dream sandwich for the book. I am only mildly offended that I myself wasn’t asked to put my dream sandwich in the book (j/k, j/k).

There are smaller breakfast and dessert sections, some may not technically be sandwiches, but I am technically not ever going to disqualify an Oreo Wafflewich from going straight into my mouth. The last chapter covers some basic recipes, like three kinds of bread. I immediately recognized the cinnamon swirl bread from when Celine was going to put out a zine, I can’t say that it’s the exact same recipe but if it is, I can tell you that it’s awesome! There are also recipes for the various ‘meats’ used in the book.

One thing that’s great is that not a single recipe calls for vegan mayo (that I could see). All of the spreads and dipping sauces are recipes in the book, and the recipes that have them are listed in the index in the back. Some people have an issue with any pre-packaged vegan substitutes in a book, I don’t as long as the bulk of the recipes don’t need them/they aren’t things you can make at home. I did see a recipe which calls for non-dairy cream cheese, but if you can’t get that at all there are many recipes on the internet and I think there might be a recipe in Celine’s past book, Vegan Substitutions.

And finally, pictures: there are many. Not of every recipe and I didn’t count them, but they are by the recipe and not an insert in the middle. Celine took all of the photos and she has a really simple food styling…style. You can see some pictures from the book here.

My only complaint about the book is that the recipes aren’t listed in the book contents or at the start of each chapter, but that’s easily solved by writing the page numbers of stuff I want to be sure to try on a sticky note and putting it on the inside cover. A very minor issue in a book that hits every other note: visually stunning, interesting recipes, good writing.

As for what recipes I tried, not as many as I would’ve liked. For some reason, I got hit with really bad allergies this summer. I don’t remember most of August except as a blur of sneezes, no matter what I took or didn’t take. My time in the kitchen, or upright outside of work, was very limited for the last half of the summer. I picked the book up from the post office on my way home from work and fell asleep reading it on the couch.

The first thing we made were the Apple Tempeh Triangle Dippers, which despite me making them very unphotogenic, were simple and delicious. Pepperidge Farms puff pastry is accidentally vegan, and the filling and pomegranate dipping sauce were super simple to put together. Tip: if, in your brain fog you forget that you have to defrost your puff pastry, you can microwave it, in very short bursts and turning/flipping it a LOT to move things along. I think I only microwaved mine for 60 seconds total, and managed to get it to a roll-able state but not ‘oops I cooked it in the microwave’.

Then we made the Carnitas Sandwiches. I feel like jackfruit has yet to REALLY catch on like it should, because it’s amazing for making carnitas and bbq ‘pork’. One thing to keep in mind is that the jackfruit is supposed to rest in the fridge after cooking, so you can’t eat this right after you start. We made this in the afternoon and then the next day when Brian came home from work, I had the chili creme resting in the fridge with the guacamole, and the jackfruit browning on the stove. Brian hates tomatoes so we both had plain guacamole and then I added tomato slices to mine, on Rudi’s oat bread:

We also made the Peanut Butter Brownie Sandwiches (I keep saying we because even if Brian doesn’t directly help me, he still hangs out in the kitchen and hands me cups and stuff out of the pantry). Before reading the recipe I assumed it was: make a pan of brownies, cut into squares, insert filling between two brownies. Nope, these look like whoopie pies, but they’re definitely brownies. I should’ve flattened mine more as the sandwiches were kind of tall, but oh my god. They are so good, and so easy to make. The peanut butter filling is thinner than a buttercream, but you can stick it in the fridge for a bit to firm it up some. These have non-dairy yogurt in them, which I know is pre-packaged, but I really like baked goods with yogurt in them. I like the texture it gives them. You can keep the brownie rounds in a baggie and the filling in a container and slap yourself together a little treat whenever you please, they keep for…well, we had eaten them all after four days, so four days.

Vegan Sandwiches has been out for a hot minute, but fear not! You can still join the cool kids and order it from Amazon, Herbivore, or I guess you could venture out into the daylight and buy it from your local bookstore. Cheers!

posted: September 27, 2012
under: books, food, pictures, review

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