I absolutely love Halloween, even though I’m still undecided about my plans for the big day (another story for another entry). The mass consumption of candy, the pumpkin carving (!), the costumes, and the spooky decorations everywhere… it’s definitely one of the better holidays of the year.
This year I have no costume (yet), but I’m still participating in the festivities by making my own jack-o-lantern. My roommate got a medium-sized pumpkin from our school for free and asked me to carve it, which I happily did. I’m not very creative when it comes to drawing, but I think I did a pretty good job. She didn’t want it to be scary so I gave it a happy face :)

And even though I enjoyed carving the pumpkin, you know what my favorite part was? The seeds! Pumpkin seeds, or pepitos in Spanish, are a tasty little treat that I’ve always wanted to make. So, instead of tossing my pumpkin seeds this year I separated them from the pumpkin goop, rinsed them, let them air-dry, sprinkled them with whatever spices I had laying around, and gave them a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I popped them into our trusty toaster oven for about 10 minutes at 400F and voila! tasty pepitos! My only regret was that the pumpkin were bigger so it would have had more seeds to roast.

Dont these look scrumptious?!

Don't these look scrumptious?!

I ate these pepitos with a roasted eggplant sandwich with sprouts, lettuce, and Vegenaise. All I did was roast some eggplant slices at 400F with crushed garlic, lemon juice, black pepper, salt, thyme, and some other spices I forget. So easy to prepare and delicious to boot.

Roasted Eggplant Sandwich with Sprouts, baby greens, and Vegenaise

Roasted Eggplant Sandwich with Sprouts, baby greens, and Vegenaise

And because I couldn’t resist, here’s a “myspace shot” circa 2007 of me and Mr. Pumpkin!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Lentil Vegetable Soup

Another product review today, but this time it’s the TJs organic lentil soup that I picked up on a whim a few days ago. I’m pretty sure this is an Amy’s product repackaged with the Trader Joe’s label, but with the added bonus of being a buck cheaper! I know this isn’t a new product, but it’s still a good vegan product to promote.

Overall, this soup was good. I would say it was a bit lacking in the spice department, but that may be due to my extreme preference for all things spicy. Not to say that it was bad- not in the slightest. My crusty Italian bread really paired well with the hearty lentils and tender vegetables swimming in the tasty broth. For soup from a can, this was pretty damn tasty! And I really couldn’t ask for a simpler lunch as all I had to do was dump the contents of the can into a bowel and nuke it for 2-3 minutes. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

I think I might experiment with making my own lentil soup soon as I have a tiny little bag of lentils that are just begging to be used. But for now, this soup works for me!

On an unrelated note, I am so excited for tonight! I might get a home-cooked vegan meal from the talented Jen over at Veganize It… Don’t Criticize It! . Updates tomorrow…

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Green Tea

This is my first product review in what I hope to continue as a series for the last week or so of MoFo. I made a HUGE Trader Joe’s run last night with my roommate- knowing the only way to go back would be a 3 mile bike ride, there was quite an incentive to stuff as much stuff into her car as possible. And that I did!

I heard rumblings on vegan internet land about the new Candy Cane Green Tea and I was instantly intrigued. Sure enough, on the “New Featured Products” shelf at TJs there stood the infamous candy cane tea. The whole concept of candy canes in green tea is one I can get down with; two of my great loves, candy and tea, combined in one (undeniably cute!) package. I immediately snatched that adorable little polar bear box in to my overflowing cart.

When I first opened the box, the smell of peppermint was overwhelming, and I mean that in a good way. For smell alone, I would buy this tea. And I’m pleased to say the taste did not disappoint either. On my first tasting (without sweetener), I couldn’t really taste any difference between this and other green teas. It was good, but not really anything different. However, after a few more sips I detected a slightly sweet peppermint taste that really added something to the tea overall. The peppermint flavor melded very well with the distinct bitterness of green tea. And a spoonful of sugar really brought it to a whole new level.

This is such a comforting kind of tea, the perfect addition to a rainy day spent in bed reading in book. Of course, seeing as stupid Orange County is still the high 80s, I won’t get to enjoy this wintery tea experience for a while.

And sometimes it’s fun just to buy tea for the box itself. How can you say no to pictures of polar bears, cutesy writing, and a (not pictured) smiling narwhal? If you love tea, pick up this one up next time you’re at Trader Joe’s. You might just discover it’s gone in no time flat. My first cup is already finished.

Too Tired To Blog Tuesdays

I had four midterms yesterday so I am dead beat. But here’s some food porn to peruse…

Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal with Asian Pear, Peanut Butter, and Raisins

Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal with Asian Pear, Peanut Butter, and Raisins

Veggies & Chickpeas Stir Fry over Quinoa

Veggies & Chickpeas Stir Fry over Quinoa

Horrible picture, but too delicious not to post!

Horrible picture, but too delicious not to post! Bought at health food store in Orange

Sweet Corn with EB and Cracked Black Pepper

Sweet Corn with EB and Cracked Black Pepper

Hope everyone is having a lovely week :)

Sweet Strawberry Rainy Days

I love strawberries. Love love love! They are one of the most versatile berries, scrumptious in pretty much anything- muffins, pies, syrups, sauces, jams, jellies, chocolate-covered, cakes, or just plain. I was lucky enough to score 3 baskets of the tastiest organic strawberries I’ve ever had (no joke, these were amazingly sweet and stayed fresh so long) for just 5 bucks at the farmer’s market. That was Thursday and I’m already down to a basket and a half. Can you really blame me, though? They are such an irresistible treat when dipped in natural sugar. I’m such a little strawberry snacker!

Sweet, juicy, orgasmic

Sweet, juicy, orgasmic

Today was the first rain of the season, which pretty much made my day. The smell of fresh rain on a dreary, overcast day- indescribably wonderful. As much as I’m enjoying the newness of this cold weather, I can guarantee I will be aching for the sun again in about a month. But, at least for now cold weather means cozy, warm clothes- my large collection of scarves is just aching to be taken out of storage to brave those Santa Ana winds. And I get to dig out my beautiful trench coats from the back of my closet. Needless to say, I am so ready for winter.

To top off it all, I might be going to Paris this next January! It’s all so exciting… I hope everyone is having an amazing day because I know I am!

TV(P) Dinner

I feel a little weird calling this baby a taco, but it’s taco-like in its inspiration. What’s going on is basically a mixture of TVP seasoned with Mexican spices, sauteed carrots and onions, and lettuce atop a hot tortilla. Sadly, no salsa because there’s none in my apartment. But, you know, it tasted good and that’s all that matters in the end. I am quite enjoying my cooking experiments with the big bag of TVP I got at the farmer’s market.

TVP Taco deliciousness

TVP Taco deliciousness

I want to interject here with a short(ish) boasting of how awesome the catering was on-set this weekend. On a student film the crafty usually consists of bagels with a tub of cream cheese for breakfast, lame supermarket sandwiches for lunch, Red Vines to snack on throughout the day, and a bag of chips for dinner. Being a vegan on top of that means even more limited choices- you can request vegan meals but usually they’re pretty lame/non-existent. Not so this weekend!

Aaaaand thats lunch! Im the freakish looking one mid-drink on the left. Our fantastic caterer is the lady near right.

Aaaaand that's lunch! I'm the freakish looking one mid-drink on the left. Our fantastic caterer is the lady near right.

The caterer made a special effort to cater to me (the crazy vegan) and the DP who had gluten and nut allergies. She sure delivered! Gluten-free “meatballs” and pasta, EB-slathered garlic bread, Veggie Grill salad, beans and rice tacos, HOMEMADE potato chips, vegetarian club sandwiches, vegan stew and much more! I have no pictures, but trust me when I say I gained several pounds after gorging myself at crafty all weekend. Sometimes people are so accommodating you almost feel bad… well, not that bad ;)

Im on the left, behind my friend Joy in the purple shirt. Yes, this was the silly picture!

I'm on the left, behind my friend Joy in the purple shirt. Yes, this was the silly picture!

“A Brighter Palette” was such an amazing group of talented people. Good times were had by all. Great environment, fun conversation, and good food. What more can you ask for?

Vegan MoFo Cop Out

Okay, hear me out. My excuse for this lame survey post is that stupid WordPress wasn’t working earlier and now it’s 11:54 and I have to wake up at 6:30 so basically this is a last-ditch effort to get a post in for the day. But yay for vegan surveys!

1. Favorite non-dairy milk?
Almond milk, no question about it. I have even convinced many omni vegans of almond milk’s inherent deliciousness. (Favorite brand is Almond Breeze Vanilla) Of course, a good rice milk horchata is nice for special occasions. 

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?
Muffins- maybe using dried mango/dates

Chickpea Sandwich Spread

Isa’s VB Scones

3. Topping of choice for popcorn?
It has to be air-popped popcorn (oh how I miss my air popper!) with melted EB, salt, and lots of nooch. I wish I had some to munch on right now.

 4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?
Hmmm that’s a toughie. Most recent was my attempt to make quinoa-stuffed red peppers- they ended up so bland I had to drizzle EB over them just to stuff them down. But I have had some funny baking disasters that actually tasted pretty good despite their ugly appearance (i.e. overflowing jam-filled muffins) 

5. Favorite pickled item?

I’m a simple girl so a plain old pickle is fine with me.

 6. How do you organize your recipes?
I either print them out and put them in a (disorganized!) folder or star them on my Google Reader. Mostly though it’s organized chaos. 

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?
I have both a  trash and a garbage disposal, but I really miss my compost. I live in a university residence hall so there isn’t any composting… yet. I was actually thinking about talking to my RA about it. 

8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods…what would they be (don’t worry about how you’ll cook them)?
Dates, broccoli, and tofu.

 9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?
I don’t have that many fond food memories from my childhood. I mostly remember those tacky plastic lunch-boxes my mom would always pack my lunches in. You know, the kind with Winnie the Pooh or Little Mermaid on the cover. I miss those! 

10. Favorite vegan ice cream?
Favorite so far is Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. But Trader Joe’s Chocolate Cherry is damn good too. 

11. Most loved kitchen appliance?
I pretty much love having an actual kitchen at this point. But, right now my favorite appliance is our toaster oven because it allows me to bake delicious vegan treats.

12. Spice/herb you would die without?
Freshly cracked black pepper. I recently splurged on a nice pepper grinder and now I could never go back to the pre-grinded stuff again! 

13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?
An old Betty Crocker vegetarian cookbook that I didn’t even take to college with me. The only vegan cookbook I own is Vegan Brunch- lame, I know!

14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?
apple pie! that stuff is sinfully good

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?
I don’t really know because I hardly ever cook for anyone. I have no confidence in my cooking skills for other taste buds than my own. But if you include baking, I would say Vcon banana bread. Omnis rave over that stuff.  

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?
Tofu! Long live tofu as it ultimately kicks seitan’s and tempeh’s sorry ass. And to think, I used to be so scared to cook tofu I would leave unopened packages of it as it went bad in my fridge. 

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?
Lunch- I’m usually energetic and excited to cook at that point in the day. Plus, afterwards there’s plenty of good lighting for food photography. 

18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?
Paper towels (not mine), a jar of used Yoplait yogurt lids (not mine), my set of 3 jars with pinto beans, black eyed peas, and sugar, and empty sugar/cream containers

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
Literally, only edamame beans. The rest is my roommates’. Yah, I need to go grocery shopping! 

20. What’s on your grocery list?
baking stuff (baking soda, vanilla extract, brown sugar, applesauce, chocolate chips, nutmeg), bananas, tofu, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, salsa

 21. Favorite grocery store?
Does the farmer’s market count? If not, then my local Trader Joe’s. 

22. Name a recipe you’d love to veganize, but haven’t yet.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough malt!

23. Food blog you read the most (besides Isa’s because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3?
Quarry Girl, Fat Free Vegan, Bitter Sweet

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?
Dandies. Those suckers are insanely good. 

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?
Um, dates? But they were only like $3.49 so not too extravagant. 

26. Ingredients you are scared to work with?
Agar powder, okra, natto (that stuff looks scary!)

“What happened to Andrae?!”

So, full discretion here, I am a pathetically obsessed Project Runway fan. I own the first four seasons and watch them, well, let’s just say I watch them when I should be doing something else productive. So, earlier today when I made a choice between A) finishing my statistics midterm, B) doing my sociology reading or C) goofing off, I think you can guess what occupied my goof off time. Procrastinators unite! … tomorrow.

Youre either in... or youre out.

"You're either in... or you're out."

After having the most delicious (dairy free!) chocolate coconut gelato and ripe mango both from the farmer’s market today, I still craved sugar. Enter dried mango! As I snuggled underneath the covers with my laptop, Project Runway Season 2 dvd, and stash of freshly bought dried mango (from the farmer’s) I couldn’t be happier. Except now, I actually have to finish that pesky homework I’ve been avoiding.

All my favorites! And dried mango is the metaphorical cherry on top.

All my favorites! And dried mango is the metaphorical "cherry" on top.

Any other Project Runway fans out there? Favorite season/contestant? Does anyone recognize the quote in the title? You know, comments make the blogging world go round :)

Vegan Baking, Je T’aime

As you can probably surmise by the name of this blog, I like to bake. Muffins specifically, but really anything will do! When I had a fully stocked vegan pantry with all the necessary spices, baking powders, extracts, flours, etc things were easier. By that I mean that any old time of day my heart’s desire happened to be for a warm, moist chocolate chip muffin, I could whip up a quick batch in 45 minutes, no problem. Baking was something I did when I was bored, felt like treating my family, or when the urge for sugar overcame me.

Alas, my baking supplies is pathetically insufficient at the moment. It’s mostly due to lack of money (i.e starving college student). There’s also the daunting task of re-stocking an entirely new pantry while also buying enough real food to actually survive upon. I’m afraid that buying a head of best-veggie-ever-broccoli (a subject for another post) usually wins over splurging for quality vanilla extract. No longer though! I’m determined to rekindle my love affair with vegan baked goods and gain back some of the recent weight I’ve lost. Chocolate chip cookies! Scones! Banana bread! Coffee cake! I can hardly wait.

I think I might just start with apple pie! It’s one of those classic fall comfort foods, and everyone gets really impressed when I tell them I make it completely from scratch. And there’s the added bonus that it makes the house smell like cinnamon-y goodness. Mmmm… pie :)

*And I promise to post more, starting now! I’ve been a’ slackin’ on brand new baby blog.

“Just order a salad”

I remember talking about veganism once with a few “friends” in my freshman public relations class and how skeptical they were about the whole concept of a diet free of animal products. “But, what do they eat? Salad?” said one girl as the other (sorority bimbo) laughed in agreement. Needless to say I didn’t take that opportunity to explain the merits of a vegan diet to these two disrespectful critics. Honestly, comments like this are hard to hear. It’s amazing how omnivores think vegans only eat bits of twigs and bark when really the culinary delights of animal-free food is endless! All you have to do is look at the thousands of vegan food blogs on the interwebz for proof.

But, sometimes I like to take stereotypes and use them for my own purposes. When someone informs me that I can “just order a sald” at a restaurant it usually makes me want to throw very large objects in that person’s general direction. But my salads are a far cry from the pathetic ice-berg salads minus chicken they serve at Applebee’s.

I had some beautiful brussels sprouts just begging to be used so I figured sauteeing them with some garlic was the way to go. Add some sauteed zucchini and other various salad stuffs and you’ve got a quick and filling nutritious meal. So I say, let them eat salad! as long as the salad always looks like this…

Sauteed brussels sprouts and zucchini with carrot shavings, alfalfa sprouts, and Goddess dressing over a bed of dark leafies

Sauteed brussels sprouts and zucchini with carrot shavings, alfalfa sprouts, and Goddess dressing over a bed of dark leafies

And when in doubt, add Goddess dressing! That stuff is like vegan crack.