Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oh What a Day Is Today...

Well...today has been an interesting day for me.  I didn't get to bed last night until after midnight...I was busy watching Teen Mom (that show is such a trainwreck!) and Catfish (w.t.f?) and then I just...couldn't sleep.  A theme of the week.  Running through a million episodes of CSI didn't help matters any. Aoife finally came in around one to purr me to sleep and I got about three hours in.  Sadly, that's the most I've gotten in a row in about two weeks.  I had a million things to get done today and my husband going into work 12 to midnight rather than being off as he thought he was did not help matters any.  I was meant to be filling out Christmas cards for work, getting groceries, wrapping Christmas presents, cleaning, bathing the kitties again, making a vet appointment for poor EĆ³ghan (he has something wrong with his ear) and finishing up some Christmas cookies and potato candy.  Before I could get unmotivated I hauled my butt out to the grocery. And...with the help of Justin Bieber and copious amounts of The People's Court that's about all I accomplished today.  I did wrap some Christmas presents and do some more decorating.  I ended up spilling half a bottle of RED nail polish on my beige carpet which was a huge fail.  Thankfully, most of it came out.  Aoife carried off all my candy canes so I spent a decent amount of time hunting those down as well.  Then I checked the mail and...

When the post office leaves you a note that says "We Care" that can only mean one thing: We didn't care about this particular package. And I'm telling you...my package looked thoroughly thrashed.  It's a package from my good friend Jewli in Germany and as soon as I pulled it out and saw it I started hyperventilating.  I know it's JUST STUFF...but it's MY stuff.  I'd like to ruin it by myself. 

This is the postman's shoddy job at taping back together the FLATTENED side of my package.  Not only was one side flat but there were also holes all through the entirety of the box.  And as you can see the outside is dyed a magenta color.  So I'm freaking out because there is no way on Earth my items have survived this kind of damage.  I mean LITERALLY the left side is FLAT.  They actually put the whole thing into a postal plastic bag to prevent it from falling apart.  Idiots. This is the first time I've gotten a package in such poor condition so I suppose I can't be TOO mad as it's bound to happen here and there and perhaps it was my turn but I just wish it had been any other package.  Anyway, rather than go crazy over it I just set it down and waked away for awhile to try to put things into perspective before opening it up.  That way, when things are ruined it doesn't ruin my entire day.  (This usually fails to work.)  I went back awhile later to find Aoife's fatness sitting on it clawing at the plastic and decided if she was ready then so was I.  And...

By some incredible miracle...not a single thing was damaged. Not a piece of chocolate. Nothing. The tissue paper had gotten wet and bled causing the purple splotches, not a polish leak like I had originally feared.  Even though the whole thing was clearly wet at some point even my palate box is unscathed. And the holes through the box somehow managed to miss every single item inside. Ridiculous. So I guess things could have been much worse!! I did manage to get a few things wrapped too! 

Has your week been productive?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Chick Pea Croquettes

Yesterday, I decided to get my cats some fancy food as a treat. Since they never get any fish I thought it would be a good idea to get them some tuna! While they enjoyed the food, the smell of it got me craving my mothers tuna croquettes. One of the things about going vegetarian is that there is really no substitute for fish. No other food really captures the flaky, light, wonderful quality of a perfectly cooked filet of fish. I stopped trying ages ago. But tuna is a different thing. A can of tuna is not flaky deliciousness. It's a salty, wet, mess of something that used to be glorious. I had a recipe a few weeks ago for a tuna salad made from chick peas (which I love anyway) and it turned out pretty nicely so I decided to just run with it and try to use them for these patties. The result was FABULOUS. Even my meat eating friends couldn't tell the difference between these and the real thing. Healthy. Delicious. Crispy. You can't beat that.

You need:
1 can (15oz.) chick peas (DO NOT buy low sodium! Don't be tempted by it's pretty packaging and promises of a healthier tomorrow. It won't work for this recipe!)
1 egg, beaten
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
3/4 c. pulsed crackers (I used Town House) or bread crumbs (panko work well)


Drain the chick peas and then pulse them through a food processor until they have a rough but paste like consistency. Mix the spices and chick peas together. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Then add the egg. Mix well and then add crackers 1/4c at a time until the mixture begins to stick. You may need to add more or less crackers than the recipe calls for so be prepared. The patties should hold their shape and not fall apart but should not stick to your hands either. Once the patties are formed, fry them up in a bit of oil until they are browned on each side (about 2 minutes per side on medium heat). Now serve them and impress your friends!

This recipe can easily be made fancier by adding any number of spices to the mix. I've seen recipes which add dill, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, etc. So don't be intimidated by it. It's a great basic recipe that you can tweak to make something great of your own!

Mask Day: Rainwater Botanicals Pumpkin Masque

It's mask day!! When I'm sticking to my skin routine, which let's face it, is not very often, I try to exfoliate twice a week and do a mask once a week.  My go to is Pangea Organics Japanese Matcha Tea Mask but I ran out about a week ago and I have a few samples to go through so I figured, why not?  This one is by Rainwater Botanicals and it came in my Eco Emi box this month.  My first thoughts when I opened it were that it smells delicious. Like pumpkin pie!  I really wanted to eat it but I restrained myself and put it on my face.  I do NOT exfoliate before I mask.  I just used a gentle cleanser (this time it was a natural Tea Tree wash I have) and then patted dry.  This mask feels a little thin and I had to sort of build it up a bit.  The sample was enough for one mask.  Once I had it on it started to tingle.  A lot.  Like I almost wanted to take it off for a minute.  It says to leave it on for five minutes, and warns that light tingling may occur but it got pretty bad so I removed it after three minutes.  It has some little rough bits in it that I think are meant to exfoliate the skin as you rinse it off but they didn't seem to do much.  I don't have sensitive skin and have used pumpkin on my face previously so I'm not sure what caused the reaction but my face was red for sometime after and didn't really feel any better than it had previously.  I can't say I reccomend this mask or not since I don't think it was really in agreement with my skin!! But at least it smelled nice while it was on!

Rainwater Botanicals Pumpkin Facial Masque is available for purchase in their Etsy store. It is a vegan product and the ingredients are: Pumpkin, Bilberry Fruit extract, Sugar Cane Extract, Sugar Maple Extract, Orange Fruit Extract, Lemon Extract, Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Glycolic Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Vitamin E, Phenoxyethanol, Meadowfoam Oil, Xanthan Gum , Vitamin C, Cinnamon Bark, Ginger Root Powder, Allspice Powder, Nutmeg Powder, Rosemary Oleoresin, Neem Oil

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cosmo Vox Box

OK so I don't know how many of you are familiar with a website called Influenster, but I recently signed up to see what all the hype was about.  It seems to work in a similar manner to Klout, except that while Klout uses your web activity to generate a score for you, Influenster asks you to work for it.  At first I was sort of disenchanted by it.  I asked for an invite, made a profile, wasted TONS of time choosing badges and writing reviews.  I linked up all my social media sites...and still...my score was zero.  How could that be?  So I did more reviews, answered questions...etc.  But it remained at zero.  So after that I thought, well forget it.  It's a lot of work and if all that did nothing to improve my score then I'm over it.  Then...weeks after the fact...something happened.  I got a message from Influenster that said I was elegible to recieve a Cosmo VoxBox.  What?  I went back to the site to take a short survey and my scores were WAY up there.  So moral of the story is there is a bit of a time delay on your activity on the site.  Even better?  I scored a free box of swag!! As soon as it got here my cats had to hone in to see if there was anything they wanted.  Aoife chose a red pen while Eoghan went for the gauze bag.  He loves those things.  After I hunted them down and retrieved the stolen goods I got to work checking out what was inside.

And here it is.  Much like a Birchbox it came with a little card to let me know what was included and some fun things about each one.  There was a bottle of Red perfume from Bath and Body Works, two FriXion pens, a Ghiradelli chocolate  bar, a Venus Embrace razor and a Venus Olay blade. 

What was I most excited for? The pens of course!! And let me tell you, I love them.  Not only do they write smoothly but...wait for it...they erase!! Gel pens which erase!?  It's pure magic.

I already have a Venus razor so this is nothing new to me.  On a tip many years ago I started using Mach blades on my Venus razors.  The razor has amazing "hug" and give to glide smoothly around curves but Mach blades have better precision.  Still I'm stoked to try out the Olay ones. Let's face it, blades aren't cheap so free is always better!

The Red perfume smells nice.  It's sort of fruity but also a little vanilla laced.  I prefer lighter florals and richer earthy scents but I'm impressed it's from Bath and Body Works and not a higher end brand.

And last...the chocolate...I actually can't eat this because milk choclate causes me to have migraines (and also I think it's disgusting).  But my husband greatfully obliged so I'll have his expert opinion soon! :)

Did any of you get a Vox Box?  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Basic French Toast

Okay so it sounds simple enough. French Toast. Everyone has eaten it. Everyone has made (or attempted to make ) it. But the beautiful thing about French Toast is that it can be made a million different ways. It's one of those things like chicken pot pie or sweet potatoes that are passed on from generation to generation, mother to daughter, that never tastes the same in two households. This is my own personal French Toast recipe, modified from the one I was taught by my own mother.

The most important part of French Toast is the actual bread...so don't skimp on this one. Go to your local bakery and pick out something fancy. Something you'd never pick up otherwise...or hit up the clearance at the end of the day and make the most out of a cheap, delicious meal!

You need:
4 slices of thick bread (I used Texas Toast)
1 egg
1 1/2 c. milk
1t. cinnamon
1t. nutmeg
1T vanilla extract

Combine the milk, egg and spices in a bowl. Mix well with a whisk and then add vanilla extract. Transfer the toast in one piece at a time and saturate both sides (DON'T let the bread get soggy but be sure its coated well on both sides). Fry toast in butter or oil on both sides until it browns.

Cut the pieces in half to serve and cover with powdered sugar or syrup (or both!)

Meatless Meatloaf

This week I have been really craving meatloaf. I've searched the internet high and low for a delicious vegetarian meatloaf and found next to nothing. The recipes either used veggie crumbles (which I'm trying to stay away from) or were made with obscure ingredients in massive amounts. I don't know about you, but pulsing walnuts for two hours isn't really on my list of things to do. I even bought a veggie loaf which was made by Amy's. Easy? Yes. Delicious? Well...not horrible. I crafted a meatloaf from beans and veggies and one completely made from veggie crumbles (modeled after my mothers meat version). While both were edible neither really satisfied my meatloaf craving. And none of them could accurately be called delicious. So I decided to get creative. I did have a pack of smart ground on hand but I decided to cut it with some mushrooms to add moisture and flavor -- and also to get away from the idea that meat substitutes are the only way to...well...substitute meat! This is a combination of a few recipes I tried plus some new ideas I threw together. It came out AMAZING! It's like meatloaf the way it's meant to be! And completely meat free!! If I had time I probably would have thrown some carrots and celery in...but I was feeling kind of lazy and wanted an easy meal. You could tweak this a hundred ways though. And aside from eggs it's completely vegan (check the package of the mixes to be sure yours are!) Eat and enjoy!

You'll need:

8oz. Baby Bella mushrooms
1 package Smart Ground original veggie crumbles (or 12oz. of your favorite UNFLAVORED brand)
1 small onion
1 Tablespoon Garlic powder (more to taste)
1/2 package Onion and Beefy soup mix (get the kind with NO animal products!)
2 eggs
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Texas Toast salt and pepper croutons pulsed into crumbs with a food processor(or sub more panko)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast Flakes
1 Tablespoon Celery Flakes (or 2 stalks celery)
salt and pepper to taste

1 packet mushroom gravy mix (for the top)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook the onions and mushrooms (and celery if you chose to use it) in 2 Tablespoons olive oil on medium heat for about 5 minutes. The mushrooms should be brown and soft and the onions should be cooked through.

Pulse the mushroom mix in a food processor until it has the same texture as the Smart Ground.

Mix the mushroom mix, Smart Ground, garlic powder, onion soup mix, celery flakes and nutritional yeast flakes in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Remember to over season a touch since you'll be adding eggs and bread crumbs! I added about a teaspoon of salt and about 2 teaspoons pepper). Beat two eggs and add to the mixture. Add 1/2 cup of salt and pepper croutons and the 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. Mix well. Add more bread crumbs as needed until the mixture sticks. Press into a greased loaf pan and bake for 20-30 minutes. If you opted for the mushroom gravy topping (which adds moisture AND flavor!) make this last and pour it over the loaf as it comes out of the oven. Let sit for 5 minutes and then serve.

15 Minute Tomato Basil Soup

Today I got home from a five day trip to Boston. The weather there was quite cold and rainy (pretty typical of New England) and it had me craving some soup. Since I'd been gone for nearly a week I didn't have much in the pantry but I managed to come up with a quick, easy tomato basil soup recipe that hit the spot and took me less than 15 minutes from start to finish. Here's what you'll need:

1 can Campbells Tomato Soup (or a similar sized can)
1/4 tsp. of the following spices: 
garlic powder, onion powder, celery root powder, basil and black pepper
1-2 splashes tobasco sauce
1/8 tsp. chili powder
1/2 cube Garden Vegetable Boullion (or enough to make 1 cup broth)
Salt to taste
Prepare the soup as indicated on the label (I use milk in mine instead of water but if you're vegan you might want to skip the milk or use soy). Then add the additional ingredients. Stir, heat until hot and add salt to taste.
That's it! Eat and enjoy! If I had more time (and more ingredients!) I probably would have added some onions, celery and diced tomatoes. But it's great this way as well and since I had all the stuff already and most of the ingredients are basic pantry staples it really only cost me about 70 cents for the entire meal. Not to shabby!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Belgian Endive and Radicchio Pasta

I'm on a mission to buy at least one thing that scares me every week at the grocery. My grocer's has a section of produce which is just at it's sell by date and while it's not the freshest produce, it's a great way to experiment with new things without paying so much for them. This week I picked up some belgian endive and a head of radicchio. I see them used all the time on shows like, Top Chef and I thought it would be easy to find recipes to use them in. I found a perfect one online which used BOTH but it wasn't vegetarian. So I tweaked it a bit and this is what I came up with! The original recipe can be found at: 

It calls for:

* 1 pound Penne
* 1 head Radicchio, cut in quarters then sliced thinly
* 1 Belgian endive, sliced thinly
* 1/2 – 3/4 cup pancetta, cut in small cubes
* 2 small shallots, chopped
* Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
* Olive oil
* Fresh lemon juice
* 1/2 cup Pinot Grigio or other white wine
* 1/3 cup half-and-half (half whole milk half cream)
* 1/2 – 3/4 cup chicken stock
* Parmigiano Reggiano

I didn't have any shallots on hand so I used half a cup of diced yellow onion. I subbed the white wine for extra "not chicken" stock and used whole organic milk in place of cream. I think you could leave off the cheese and also the pancetta but I used mozzarella and some nutritional yeast flakes to top it off (I think cubed tomatoes would also be amazing!) and used some Morningstar fake bacon in place of the pancetta on top. I also didn't have penne so I used farfalle. I think any type of pasta would work but I would try to avoid thinner ones such as spaghetti. I also doubled the endive in mine...mostly just because I happened to have two.

To make it:

1. Cook penne until al dente and set aside (you can cook at the same time as the sauce).

2. Add some olive oil to a large saute pan (I added Bacon salt to the oil since the original recipe called for bacon grease but you could probably skip that step) and saute the shallots on medium low heat until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes now if you intend to do so. Add the wine (you can sub extra stock, water with a splash of vinegar or white grape juice) and allow to reduce for a couple of minutes.

4. Add the "not" chicken stock and season with salt if you think it needs it. Also, start squeezing a tablespoon of lemon juice at a time. (I used about two teaspoons of lemon juice in mine)

5. Add the radicchio, cover the pan and allow to cook for about five minutes. This will cut most of the bitterness of the radicchio.

6. Add the cream and allow to heat up in the pan, add the Belgian endive and toss the pasta. You can top with mozzarella, about a teaspoon (per individual plate) of nutritional yeast flakes, crumbled Morningstar bacon and a splash of lemon juice.

The sauce won’t look sufficient in the pan but the ingredients combined will provide quite a bit of flavor without being too rich.


(When I finished my sauce it was SUPER thin. I added some corn starch to thicken it a touch so that it would cling to the pasta more. If you're going to do that do it BEFORE adding it to the noodles!)

This pasta is delicious but I think next time I would double the sauce. It was flavorful but I like to have more veggies and less noodle. Whole wheat pasta would also be delicious. I think next time I'll experiment more with toppings too...fresh tomatoes or chives would be great on top.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Vegetarian Potato Soup

Last week I was feeling a little sick and decided to make myself some comforting potato soup. My mother used to always make it for me when I wasn't feeling so good...but of course, hers had a chicken stock base. I used some of the veggies I always have in my fridge and came up with a sort of potato chowder. It tastes AMAZING and best of all, it's easy. I'm not great with measurements but I've approximated what I used for the recipe. It does contain milk but you could easily make it vegan by using a soy milk or simply adding more "stock" and adding some non-dairy creamer at the end. My mother used to do that with hers and it works like a charm for extra creaminess without milk or cream.

You'll need:

3 or 4 medium potatoes
3 stalks of organic celery
Half a vidalia onion (or a large onion of your choice)
2 organic carrots or about 8 organic baby carrots
1/4 stick of butter (or Earth Balance for a vegan version)
1/4 cup flour
Two cups of water
Two cups milk (soy or regular or sub water and add about three TBSP non dairy creamer)
One cube and one half of Edward & Sons "not chicken" bouillon cubes*
Half a cube of Edward & Sons Garden Veggie bouillon
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
One teaspoon of Poultry Seasoning (see below for recipe or use a pre-made version)
Sea Salt
One stalk of green onion (optional)

Combine the water and the bouillon cubes to create a stock. Set aside.
Chop the celery, carrots and onions into small pieces and combine in a saucepan with the butter. Let simmer on low heat until the onions are soft and transparent. After about three minutes, add the garlic powder and the poultry seasoning. In another pot boil the cubed potatoesin salted water on high for 8 to 10 minutes until they are soft. When the vegetables are finished transfer them to a large soup pot and add the flour. Turn the heat to medium high and stir to make a roux (flour should brown slightly). Slowly add the stock and let cook on medium high until it has thickened a bit. Add the potatoes when they are soft and then slowly add the milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let it simmer for about five minutes and then add the green onions. Serve.

*You can add veggies to your liking. I always have celery and carrots on hand. You can also use your favorite 'chicken' bouillon but be aware that the cubes I used make 2 cups of stock each. So you may need to use more if your chosen cubes only make one cup.

For the poultry seasoning:
Combine equal parts of the following spices in a mortar and pestle:
Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, Basil, and Thyme

The Hunt for the Perfect Soy Milk

Cutting dairy out of my diet has been really difficult for me. Like all good Americans, I LOVE cheese. But when I started to try to eliminate dairy, I found that the thing I've had the hardest time giving up is milk. It's not just that I really, REALLY love milk...it's that there just isn't anything I've been able to find that replicates it's thick, creamy, satisfying qualities. And the problem isn't just with drinking milk...it's with cooking. Like the foodie I am, I tried all sorts of milk substitutes: Rice milk (too thin), Almond milk (too nutty), Hemp milk (too...weird) and of course, the old standby Soy milk. Mostly I use soy milk for my morning coffee, Starbucks uses West Soy and since I've been able to find it at my local Dollar Tree (score!) I've been using it too. For coffee purposes it's fine (though when I have extra money I prefer Silk's Vanilla Soy creamer) but for drinking purposes...well...it just doesn't quite compare to milk. And while cooking with it has yielded fully edible results, the creaminess just isn't there. Enter West Soy Organic Soy milk. Who would have thought that going organic would make such a difference with soy milk? The thing is, as with all milk substitutes, there isn't just soy beans in that soy milk you're drinking. There are sweeteners in there too. I found this out the hard way when I made Mac and Cheese with non-organic Hemp milk. The finished product had this odd sweetish taste that rendered it nearly inedible. West Soy Organic soy milk has two ingredients: soy beans and water. That's it. That's all. And it is amazing! It tastes as close to milk as you can get (I'm a whole milk drinker myself so if you prefer 2% or 1% it's probably even closer) and with cooking there's virtually no difference from milk. I haven't tried organic rice, almond or hemp milk yet but I intend to check those out as well. And of course...my Dollar Tree West Soy will still get use in my coffee...you just can't beat 1.00 for a quart!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Well ladies and gentlemen...after much thought I've decided to merge two of my blogs.  Some of you probably know that I currently have THREE blogs going.  One is just generally about my vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, one is for my nail art and nail related things and then this one is sort of a catch-all for things that are leftover.  Most of the beauty reviews I do on this blog are vegan products and a lot of the crafts I do or DIY projects I have planned are part of my Eco-friendly lifestyle.  In an effort to simplify my life (what a concept) I've made the decision to close down the food blog and just move it over here.  I'm sad to see it go...mostly because I love my super cute logo!! So I'm going to leave it up for awhile while I decide how to fully merge the two.  But for now I'm going to be slowly moving recipes from there to here.  Because of that, there will be a lot of posts going up in the near future!! But hopefully when it's all done I'll feel more organized and things will seem a little easier!  Here's recipe number one:

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

"I'm not a vegan (yet) but I do try to keep my diet as free of animal products as is possible. I'm always wary of vegan recipes since they so often go wrong but yesterday I had a serious craving for cupcakes and I decided to experiment with a vegan recipe.

The recipe for cupcakes I used can be found here: 

If you don't have access to soy yogurt I found that silken tofu works well. Pulse it through a blender first to get a smooth texture. The cupcakes were delicious!! I topped them with a coffee glaze made from 1/4 cup brewed coffee, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1tsp vanilla and about 4TB Earth Balance vegan butter. Then I drizzled it over the tops and sprinkled cinnamon on top! Delicious!"

Day At A Time Vegetarian: Eco Emi November

Day At A Time Vegetarian: Eco Emi November: OK so as most of you know I extend my vegetarianism into more than just my eating habits.  I don't know how common it is for vegetari...