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VeganMoFo, Vegan Cuts box, and other vegan things.

Happy almost VeganMoFo, guys! As always, I am super excited to be involved, and yes, I am doing Vegan Dinner & A Movie this year, with a slight twist. Not an exciting twist, mind you, but a theme within my theme. People ask me where I get this, I don’t know, it’s… maybe a gift from God or somethin’.

Before a month of movies and menus and my horrible, horrible writing and joke skills start I wanted to post a short review of the second Vegan Cuts beauty box and just mention some of my other favorites from the last few months. Also, I changed my comments over to Disqus to try and avoid getting 300+ spam comments during MoFo, but that means that all of my previous comments got wiped out. :(

If you got the box, you’ll notice my lip tint is missing but I already squared up with customer service and they got back to me promptly and I will get an extra item in my next box.

So mostly what people want to know is, is the box still worth $20? I think so! Even missing the lip tint, the nail wraps are normally $16. There were two kinds of nail wraps you could get (I LOVE THE NAVY STRIPES, MELISSER) and the lotion and deodorant samples came in a few different scents. I’m very happy with the scents I got, the pear lotion smells like something from Bath & Body Works but without the overpowering perfume and actually drying out my skin (eczema = overly-scented lotions are worthless). The deodorant makes my armpits smell like a mojito! Sunscreen samples are always welcome as it’s something we all need (or you should use if you don’t think you need it). I haven’t used the sample soap yet but I am down for anything pepperminty. I haven’t tried the nail wraps yet because I want my nails to at least be semi-uniform in length. So of course I broke a nail yesterday.

If I had to get rid of one thing, it would be the zit stick. I do have acne problems, but that’s why I already have a daily routine that involves zit cream so a spot stick will just result in my drying my zits out to the point of flaking. However, Brian rarely gets zits and complains when I try to put things in his face, so I will save it for chasing him around the house.

Above all, I like to try new things so even if I get something and it isn’t totally my jam, I still think it’s fun to try.  If you want to order your own beauty box, and you should, do it!  [affiliate link]

And here are some other things that i’ve tried out and enjoyed these past few months, either to put on my person or in my mouth.

Wet n Wild MegaEyes Crème Eyeliner, Black
: I finally found a type of eye-liner that I can’t totally mess up! I don’t know what’s wrong with my hands or my eyelids, but I cannot get a clean line with pencils, sticks, and certainly not liquid eyeliners. My hand isn’t steady and maybe my eyelids are coated in satan. It’s easy to get a pigmented line and put this on in short strokes instead of trying to be swift about it. I’m sure I could upgrade to a fancier brand, but I have no complaints so far about WnW and i’m on a budget. (P.S. Wet n’ Wild has a vegan list, I recommend copying it into wordpad so you can take a print out and peer back and forth between the list and the numbers. I found trying to scroll up and down on my phone to be even more annoying.)

Wet n Wild Fergie Eyeshadow Primer: Okay, I have oily lids and I have tried all kinds of eye primers and they’ve all done dick for me. Not only are my eyelids oily, but they’re hooded and droopy and I basically stopped wearing eyeshadow because it got to the point where nothing would stay. And then I decided to take a chance on being embarrassed by owning a Fergie product, and omgzzzzzzzzz. I have tried this with tarte eyeshadows, ELF (cheap-o and mineral) eyeshadows, super natural cream eyeshadows, every level of quality basically and shit stays put. It’s a god damned miracle product.

Everything I found at TJ Maxx! Your mileage will certainly vary, the first time I went into the TJ Maxx here they had no makeup of any kind, but I lucked out big time and found Spa Ritual for the first time ever, some ORLY duos and mini sets (I love mini polishes, I got more colors and will still get multiple applications out of each bottle, for the same price as one full-price bottle of ORLY), and two food items that i’ve only gotten in previous Vegan Cuts snack boxes. Shitty instagram photo:

If you aren’t wise to TJ Maxx outside of their stupid Maxxinista commercials, they have marked down items that rotate in and out. Mostly they push the ‘designer brands for less’ angle, but you can really score in the beauty aisle and what food they do carry is usually supposed to be ‘fancy’ so it’s actually pretty easy to find vegan things there. In addition to the brands above i’ve found derma-e, Pacifica, DermOrganic, and I think Avalon Organics. They also had ELF makeup, but it cost the same amount as it does on the website and people were being gross and opening all of it and then leaving the palettes on the table. GROSS.

And finally, the best thing I have put in my face all summer are these peanut butter brownies with Dandies. I can no longer buy Dandies because I moved, but I picked up a bag on a whim while visiting my father-in-law and tried out this recipe and they are. The best. I think this was from before they changed the marshmallow sized, so be sure to chop your dandies in 1/4ths or at least half if you try it.

posted: August 31, 2013
under: lists, pictures, products

Chester’s Greatest Hits: 2001-2013

Yesterday, we said goodbye to my best grumpy old friend.  Chester stopped eating his dog food on Thursday, and by Sunday night he wouldn’t even eat the peanut butter to take his liver medication.  He wouldn’t leave the water bowl unless I physically carried him or he had to go outside.  Over the past few years with all of his liver problems and busting his hip, i’ve never thought he was unhappy or suffering.  He had no fucks left to give for this world, so we took him in to be euthanized.

We got Chester from an adoption event in front of a Walmart in 2005.  Brian was deploying in the fall, and I wanted a dog to take care of so I wouldn’t spend three days in the same pjs, and cats don’t really inspire a person to get out of bed (quite the opposite).  The lady asked what kind of dog we were looking for and I said, “I don’t know…medium sized?  One I can walk that won’t walk me.”  We met one dog who was very cute but so hyper I couldn’t even get him to look at me.  So we moved onto a smiling white and brown mutt, and when I knelt down he wagged his nub and licked my face.  We walked him around for a little bit and he was happy but not psychotic, so we said we wanted him.  He came neutered (the previous owner ‘did it himself’) and was four years old, so he set us back a whopping $20.  Best $20 we’ve ever spent.

Chester got me through two deployments, many training sessions, Bonny’s death, Brian’s flight school, and a lot of depression.  Until he broke his hip, he slept with me every night.  When Brian was deployed, he would wedge himself into my back, which made me uncomfortable so i’d scoot an inch away, and then he’d scoot, and that is why I woke up most mornings on the opposite side of the bed from which I had started.  He was a great dog to hug, you could really hang onto him.  He didn’t like kids and sometimes adults (mostly if they came over and he was trying to figure them out and they would try to touch him too soon) so casual observers didn’t care much for him, but everyone close to him knew what was up.  My father-in-law said several times that Chester was the smartest dog he’s ever met.  Everyone said he had the most expressive face.

When he went in for a dental cleaning three years ago, we found out about his liver and thyroid, so he started taking medication.  We adjusted, Chester was still himself minus the teeth they pulled.  Dinnertime became more complicated with soaking food and pills, but we worked it out.  Eventually he lost the extra weight he had been carrying around and his doctor was pleased.  When he dislocated his hip, obviously he was in pain, but he still smiled when he wasn’t high as a kite.  He stopped sleeping with us except for short naps, but his bed was next to my head and I could dangle my arm down and touch his ears.  They weren’t nearly as big, but he had those soft beagle ears that I could rub for days.

Chester’s hip, even after surgery, meant that he fell down a lot.  He had to re-learn how to squat to poop.  People would see him fall over in the grass and get really concerned, but he would just smile and get up.  He meant to do that, guys.  He managed to sprain his good leg earlier this year which meant for a few days he couldn’t walk at all, so we had to carry him like a football outside and hold his food bowl so he could eat in his bed.  He could no longer go up the stairs alone, because even if he tried he was probably going to lose his grip and slide back down.  When we were looking for houses, one criteria was that Chester would not have to go down a flight of stairs to get outside.  Here, my computer is in the same room as the back door so he only went upstairs to go to sleep.

When we moved, shit started getting weird.  For the first time ever, Chester started peeing in the house.  Chester had always woken me up if he needs to pee, and he didn’t take ‘fuck off, i’m sleeping’ for an answer.  Giant lakes of pee in the living room.  At first I thought, “Oh, he must’ve been thirsty in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back upstairs and then we couldn’t hear him yip.” So we put an extra water dish in the hall bathroom upstairs.  That didn’t help, so we got his old dog pen out and put it around his bed in the corner.  That meant no arm dangling in the middle of the night, and I started to get bummed out.  Around this time, we took him in to the vet to check his levels, because I noticed he had lost a little weight.  We took him off of his thyroid medication and onto the gall bladder gunk blaster.  That was about two weeks ago.

On Sunday, Brian went to Chicago all day and I had nothing to do but observe my dog and come to the conclusion that he was over life.  I even tried annoying him to get a reaction, like putting a stuffed toy on his head or giving him a bath (he was pretty damn dirty).  He let the toy sit there and after his bath, didn’t even try to rub himself on the carpet.  I talked to my friend Katie about it, and she gave me lots of advice and support and I love her.  I tricked him into eating some of his dinner by sprinkling some of Brian’s shredded cheese on it, but he eventually threw that up and continued to puke up nothing but water or a drop of bile until his appointment yesterday.  When Brian came home, we were all huddled together on the living room floor, watching Buffy (except Harley, because she is an independent poof who likes to lay in the foyer).  Maybe it was my totally bloodshot eyes or the way I was spooning my dog in a tight grip, but he could tell something was wrong.  We talked about it, and agreed to call the vet in the morning.  I ‘slept’ on the living room floor all night with Chester and Fawkes.  Fawkes is a good brother.  They never got that super-bond thing that Chester and Bonny had, but Fawkes knew something was wrong and continued to hang out.

One thing I did on Sunday was look at pictures of Chester, and being reminded of how much fun he used to have and how much he used to jump and romp around, actually helped me realize that we were doing the right thing.  No matter how much my brain may try to tell me otherwise, I did not kill my dog.  He was already checked out.  We were just coming in to turn off the lights and make the bed.  Or some other metaphor.  To quote Whitney Houston out of context, it’s not right, but it’s okay.

So here we have some of Chester’s greatest moments.  I did take some pictures of him yesterday and there are plenty of other recent ones on instagram, but most of these are very old.  This first one is the day we brought him home (my friend Julie said he looked like Chester from Sifl and Oly, so he was named).  Other than that, they’re in no particular order.  Look at my dog and laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

posted: June 4, 2013
under: animals, family, pictures

Whole Grain Vegan Baking: Blog Tour/Review and Giveaway!

The giveaway is over, congratulations Tofu Cat!

Are you ready to bake up some whole grains like a mug*?

I have a feeling that Whole Grain Vegan Baking is the kind of book that people will be afraid to pick up, and needlessly so! I found this book easy to use, despite having only a half stocked kitchen. I went to make my first recipe and realized I didn’t have any dry measuring cups, for pete’s sake. I also don’t currently own any pretty plates or linens so you’ll have to excuse my washcloth-chic food styling. So! Let’s address some fears you might have:

It’s expensive/inaccessible: It doesn’t have to be! Please check out the post I made a few days ago about how people from small towns can easily get what they need. Internet shopping is a gift from Al Gore, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t use it. If you happen to live in a place with a health food store, you can hit up their bulk bins and get a lot of the flours, or if you’re lucky, all of them. Bulk bins are cheaper and you can get the exact amount you need. And while WGVB does use a few items that are pricey, Celine and Tami made a conscious effort to use more affordable ingredients. Overall, of course while grain flours and natural sweeteners are going to cost more than white flour and sugar, but I guarantee that there is something in here for every budget and lifestyle.

Also, someone noted that there seems to be a lot of vegan yogurt in this book, obviously ordering yogurt off of the internet requires purchasing a cold pack and isn’t something most people are willing to do. You can substitute any yogurt in the book with blended silken tofu. Or if all you can get is a fruity yogurt, say the gross new Silk soy ones, you can diligently pick the fruit out and adjust the sweetener a little bit. And maybe your finished product will come out blueberry tinted, but whatever.

I have to buy a million flours and i’ll never use them all: Hey, you don’t need to buy anything you don’t want to! I didn’t make a count, but it seems to me like barley, spelt, wheat/whole wheat pastry flour, and oat are the most commonly used. What I did was mark up a bunch of recipes to try, then I went through and wrote down the common flours/sweeteners in them. I just checked the index and each flour used has a section, and the only flour I got that doesn’t have multiple uses is graham flour. Also, Bob’s Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills come in much smaller bags than standard flours, so you’ll use them up much faster than a standard sized bag of wheat flour. If you have the room, you can store extra flours in your fridge or freezer, in an airtight container.

It’s boring: Absolutely not. Celine and Tami aren’t the kind of people who will put out a book of plain loaves and bran muffins. The basic recipes are there, but they are far outweighed by things like Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies (the surprise is Sriracha) and Baked Speculoos Donuts. If you think you’ve got whole grain baking figured out because you know how to swap whole wheat for white flour, you are in for a punch to the gut of your tastebuds.

It’s too healthy tasting/god damned hippie crap: Everything I made has passed The Brian Test, and he kept saying that he couldn’t tell that they were supposed to be healthier alternatives. The last thing I made were the Savory Barley and Potato Scones (I made the suggested walnut swap for the raisins), and I warned him that they were totally savory and the most ‘whole grain’ tasting thing I had made, and he still liked them. Using such a wide variety of flours, and combining them, helps the recipes avoid that dry, crunchy, sadness you might expect.

I hate oil/soy/gluten/nuts/joy: Okay, ya’ll are going to be disappointed with this book if you are expecting this book to be free of anything besides refined flours and sugars, and soy (which is an easy swap for milks and yogurt). I don’t think any of my xgfx friends will be shocked to hear that this book isn’t for them, since it’s a baking book that isn’t specifically gluten free. But if you are feeling adventurous and want to try and de-gluten some of the recipes, here’s a good guide to gluten-free flour swaps and when to use them.

And as always, Fair Winds puts out some of the most attractive vegan cookbooks ever.  The design of the book is beautiful, as are Celine’s photos.  I would guess about 1/3rd of the recipes have an accompanying photo.  I found the book very easy to use and despite the fact that I had to improvise a lot based on my kitchen equipment (seriously, how did I forget measuring cups?!), I got great results with everything I made.

Pictures! Followed by words about the pictures!

Wholesome Vanilla Pound Cake, I ate most of this straight up with a glass of almond milk, but I spread these pieces with Peanut Butter & Co. White Chocolate Wonderful and cherry fruit spread.  Definitely one of the easier recipes in the book, if you’re looking for the shallow end to dip your toes into.

Double Cranberry Scones, I had to use raspberries in lieu of fresh/frozen cranberries, so for me these were Cranberry Raspberry Scones.  Another super easy recipe, which Brian enthusiastically wolfed down.

Layered Chocolate and Banana Mini Cakes, I used a 6 cup bundt pan because I only have one mini cake pan.  This is the recipe to go for if you have some overripe bananas that you need to use up, and again, super easy.  It’s like a desserty banana bread with a brownie on the bottom (or top, depending on the kind of pan you use).

Savory Barley and Potato Scones, which I decided to make after I realized that I hadn’t made anything that wasn’t at least a little sweet.  These are definitely different, and since I used the recipe note suggestion to use walnuts in lieu of raisins, they would be excellent paired with a soup or stew.  They come out a little dry looking (I brushed a little vegan margarine on top of the ones in the photo), but the inside is incredibly moist.

My final picture is below with the recipe, and I can’t wait to bake more!  For funsies, I asked the authors what their favorite recipes from the book were, if you need some more jumping off points.

Tami:  English Muffin Bread, Cracked Wheat Pan Rolls, and the Strawberry Sweet Biscuits

Celine:  the hazelnut shortbreads, the lemon curd tartlets, and the banana berry breakfast bake

Giveaway!  Fair Winds Press has agreed to send one lucky person (US or Canada only, sorry) their own copy of Whole Grain Vegan Baking.  To enter, simply comment on this entry telling me what your favorite kind of baked good is!  Be as generic or specific as you like.  I’m partial to cake and anything yeasty, myself.  I will pick a winner at random on Friday, May 31st.  Make sure to comment with a valid email address!  Enjoy the recipe, and check out Denise’s post tomorrow on The Urban Vegan, which is the last stop on the book tour.

*mug is slang from days gone by that only I still use, it means mother somethingsomething.

 

Braided Almond Oat Bread

This was an instant favorite when I made it, so it was the recipe I wanted to share. It’s small town living friendly: you can grind oats and almonds in a food processor to make those flours and sub the yogurt with blended silken tofu if you have trouble finding those things. I recommend brushing with maple syrup instead of agave, because it tastes like a loaf of french toast! The only change I made to the recipe was to just use some extra almond meal for the sprinkling at the end.

3/4 cup (180 ml) lukewarm plain or vanilla flavored almond milk, divided
1/4 cup (60 ml) pure maple syrup, divided
330 g (2 3/4 cups) white whole wheat flour, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
90 g (1 cup) oat flour
120 g (1 cup) almond meal
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
120 g (1/2 cup) plain or vanilla flavored vegan yogurt, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60 ml) melted coconut oil or neutral flavored oil
Pure maple syrup or raw agave nectar, for brushing
Chopped roasted almonds, for sprinkling

Combine 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the milk with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) maple syrup, 60 g (1/2 cup) of the wheat flour, and the yeast. Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes, until bubbly.

In a large bowl, combine 240 g (2 cups) of the wheat flour and the oat flour, almond meal, and salt.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk, remaining 3 tablespoons (45 ml) maple syrup, yogurt, and oil. Pour the wet ingredients onto the and mix, adding the remaining 1/4 cup (30 g) flour, 1 tablespoon (8 g) at a time, if needed, until the dough is smooth and pliable, about six minutes.

Alternatively, knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface for about eight minutes, adding extra whole wheat flour if needed, until smooth and pliable.

Shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Punch down the dough, and place it on a clean surface. Divide it into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion out into a 12-inch (30 cm) strand. Place 3 strands side by side, pinch them together at the top to seal, and tuck the top under slightly. Braid the strands. Pinch together and tuck the bottom of the braid as well, gently grabbing both ends of the braid and pushing together to make a neat and tight braid. Repeat with the remaining three strands. (Katie’s note: I found it easier to start the braid not quite in the middle, so I could braid towards each end and ensure maximum braidage before tucking. If that makes any sense.)

Place the breads on the prepared sheet. Cover the breads with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes, until puffed.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C or gas mark 5).

Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top and dark brown on the bottom. Turn the baking sheet once halfway through to ensure an even coloring and even baking of the braids.

Lightly brush the tops with maple syrup or agave nectar once out of the oven. Sprinkle with the chopped almonds. Let cool on a wire rack. The breads taste even better the next day.

posted: May 27, 2013
under: books, pictures, recipes, review

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