Saturday, May 21, 2011

Couponing: $.93 Old Navy Flip-Flops and Free Cocoa Pebbles Treats

Now that I'm a single mom I find I'm always looking for ways to pinch pennies. Like many others, I've found inspiration in the couponing fad of late. I'm a proud couponing newbie and can happily announce that today I landed a great score!

It was $1.00 flip-flop day at Old Navy today. Customers could purchase up to five solid-colored flip-flops for just a buck - such a deal! But I also saw on the The Krazy Coupon Lady that I could print a 15% off a single Old Navy item coupon from Facebook. So, armed with my coupon I drove to my local Old Navy and grabbed the only color flip-flops I'm going to need this summer (because my dog ate last summer's black pair a few days ago... bad dog!!!).


Retail Price: $3.50
Sale Price: $1.00
Coupon Savings: 15%
Total Price Paid: $.93

Plus, they were running some sort of promotion for Cocoa Pebbles Treats. My cashier threw 8 of them into my bag for free! These little cuties will be a perfect addition to brown-bag lunches for The Boy.

Score!!!

I can see how this couponing thing can become addictive.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Today's Breakfast Smoothie: Blueberry Acai Vanilla

I'm on a smoothie kick again. Hooray! This morning's impromptu concoction consists of...
  1. Dump it all in the Vita-Mix and give it a whiz.
  2. Enjoy!
Have a fabulous Monday, everyone!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Slow Cooker: Curried Butternut Squash Soup

First, allow me express my gratitude for the warm welcome back to blogdome. It means a lot to me that y'all are still here. Now, on with the show.

I love using my slow cooker. I love how easy it is. I love how the smell of whatever's bubbling away in there builds throughout the day to an olfactory climax 'round dinner time. Love love love. Especially when it's the type of recipe that allows me to dump ingredients into a pot, hit a button and forget about it for hours. I'm pleased to report that this is one of those recipes.

It's not, however, a perfect recipe. In fact, if I make it again, I have some planned alterations in mind. But I'll get to those in a minute.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Makes 6-8 Servings
About 10 minutes prep time
  • 2 pounds butternut squash (or pumpkin), rinsed, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 firm, crisp apples, peeled, seeded and chopped (whatever you've got laying around)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 5-6 cups veggie stock
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder, sweet or hot
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries (optional)
  1. Add squash, apples and onion to the slow cooker.
  2. Pour the stock, curry powder and cloves on top. Give it a gentle stir.
  3. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or on LOW for 5-5 1/2 hours until the veggies are tender.
  4. Using an immersion or traditional blender, blend the soup to desired consistency. Add salt and black pepper.
  5. Garnish individual bowls with cranberries (optional).
I served mine piping hot with some ciabatta bread on a TV tray in front of the season finale of Being Human, the BBC version. Feel free to serve yours with whatever artisanal bread and television show you like.

This recipe was tasty. Not OMGdelicious, but tasty. As you may or may not have noticed, it's super healthy with absolutely no added fat, so it may be worth tinkering with. Which brings me to my planned alterations.
  • I think adding a smooth-skinned potato would help make it more creamy and not so obviously broth-based, though the fact that I was cooking with canned stock didn't help.
  • Also, I think the 1 tablespoon of curry powder may be better replaced with 1/2 tablespoon curry powder with 1/2 - 1 tablespoon cumin.
  • I'd also cut the cloves from 1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon.
I hope your weekend was fabulous!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sesame Slaw


Sesame Slaw
Originally uploaded by Marni Molina
Hello readers, if there are any of you left. My sincerest apologies for my extended absence. I've had some heavy personal upheaval-type stuff going on which I may or may not blog about at some point. But not today.

Today I've signed on to tell you about this delish and super easy salad my mom turned me on to a few weeks ago. The original recipe appeared in PEOPLE December 6, 2010. Apparently it's something that CSI Miami's Emily Procter used to whip up while she was in college. Well you know me, I've tinkered with it - I dare say improved it - and renamed it. The dish comes together in 15 minutes or less and is great for easy entertaining, though I've just been making it for myself because... yum!

Sesame Slaw
Serves 4-6
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar (yes, you can use sugar if your cabinet is agave deficient)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil (preferably organic)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (preferably organic)
  • 1 16-oz. bag coleslaw mix
  • 2 packages Ramen noodles, uncooked and broken up (discard the icky, sodium laden, and not vegan seasoning packet)
  1. In a skillet (cast iron if you've got one) over medium heat, toast the almonds and sesame seeds until they are light brown and you smell the nutty goodness wafting up from the pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the vinegar, agave nectar, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oils until you get an emulsion.
  3. Throw the coleslaw mix and Ramen noodles on top and toss to combine ingredients with the dressing at the bottom of the bowl. Add and gently stir to combine almonds and seeds just before serving.
This is one of those recipes that gets better the longer it sits. The flavors come together over night and when you have the leftovers the next day it tastes even better.

I think it'd be great for a picnic, barbeque, potluck or as a side at a tailgate party. Play with the seasonings (maybe add some Chinese Five Spice?) and have fun!

And using my serious voice... if you're reading this, thanks for sticking around. It's good to be back.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Our 2010 Vegan Thanksgiving Menu and Prep Plan

Thanksgiving is a holiday that we've tried to celebrate on our own since going vegan simply because planning a large holiday meal with my family is too difficult. Even if they try to "compromise", like they're doing this year, and make things we can eat, they don't provide anything of sustenance. For example, their offering to us this year is the steamed white rice they are already making as a bed for the chicken dish my mother is preparing. Inevitably, what ends up happening is I cook and transport an entire holiday meal (from appetizer to dessert), just about all of which they have no problem digging in to, while all we can eat of theirs is... well in this case, steamed white rice. And, not having made anything vegan, from the comfort of their own kitchen, they truly believe they've compromised and coordinated the meal with us as we lug dish after dish out of the back of our car.

What brought on this rant? I'm glad you asked. Having resisted the black hole of guilt from my mother with regard to Thanksgiving for the last two years, this year I've somehow been sucked into her omnivoric vortex. So, without further ado, I present to you the complete Thanksgiving meal, from appetizer to dessert, that I'm making and packing up to take to my parent's house. This is what a coordinated meal looks like to them...

I'm making:

APPETIZER

SALAD

THE MAIN EVENT

DESSERT

See what I mean? At least I strategically selected dishes I can prepare ahead of time because what I really want to do on Thanksgiving, not that anyone asked, is watch football and drink hard cider.

Now I need to make my shopping list and figure out when I'm going to get all these ingredients. Then I need to determine how I'm going to manage to cook most of it ahead of time with my six-year old placing food orders like he's at a 24-hour diner and our new puppy constantly underfoot. My motivation: to suffer the least amount of stress and shared kitchen time as possible on Thanksgiving day.

That concludes my rant.

Oh... and Happy Thanksgiving. :::grin:::

Monday, July 5, 2010

Veggie Quiche


Vegan Veggie Quiche
Originally uploaded by Marni Molina
We went to a neighborhood party on Saturday night. One of those laid back events where everyone brings food to share and their own main course to throw on the communal barbeque. One of the side dishes was a delicious mix of veggies - mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, garlic and other veggie goodness all sautéed in some olive oil with salt and pepper. Simple. Rustic. Fantastic. We piled our veggie burgers high with the stuff.

Towards the end of the night, I was lending some help in the kitchen on clean-up duty. Bridgette, the woman who made the veggies, packaged up the leftovers and asked if I could use them. I had been wanting to try my hand at making a vegan quiche for quite some time, and thought the veggies would make a perfect filler. So, I happily took them home, promising I'd give them new life the next day.

I used the two recipes for quiches in Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz as a guideline, but I basically improvised my quiche as I threw it together. I was smart enough to take notes, though (this time). And I'm glad I did because it came out better than I ever could have imagined it would. Now, not only can I recreate it in all its quiche-y goodness, but I can share it with you! :::grin:::

Veggie Quiche
makes one 9" pie - eight slices

The structure of this quiche is designed to make use of veggie leftovers, but you can always make the whole thing fresh, from scratch.
  • 3 cups leftover, cooked veggies (whatever you've got on hand)
  • 2/3 cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1 lb. firm tofu, squeezed & drained
  • 3 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme (leaves removed from stems)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 9" whole wheat pie crust (from the frozen foods section) - or make your own pie crust if that's how you role
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pulse the cashews in a food processor until you have fine crumbs.
  3. Break the tofu up into chunks and add it to the cashew crumbs. Add the sage, thyme, turmeric and nutritional yeast. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of your food processor as needed.
  4. Add one cup of your leftover veggies to the tofu mixture and pulse a few times to incorporate, but not obliterate the veggies.
  5. Empty contents of food processor into mixing bowl along with remaining 2 cups of leftover veggies. Fold all ingredients together until well incorporated.
  6. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Pour mixture into frozen pie crust and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until center of quiche is firm and the edges are are starting to brown.
  8. Allow the quiche to sit for 15-30 minutes before slicing and eating.
Quiche is one of those dishes that serves as a fantastic breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We enjoyed ours as part of our 4th of July dinner along with roasted asparagus, mashed potatoes smothered in Mighty Miso Gravy from How it All Vegan! and oven-roasted corn on the cob.

For dessert we had Whole wheat, Fat-Free Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Muffins - a recipe from the Happy Herbivore. They were amazing! Easy to put together, incredibly aromatic and insanely delicious, especially for how healthy they were. I'll definitely be making those again!

As for the quiche, I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. I look forward to experimenting with different kinds of leftover veggies and various fresh herbs from my garden. I hope you enjoy it, too!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Workouts, Part I: Free Weights

I started working out on a regular basis as part of a 2009 New Year's resolution. For all of last year, I did nothing but cardio workouts. Wii Fit, walking, various workout DVDs and the like were the crux of my activity for the year. For the first 7-8 months, they worked great. I consistently lost weight and, therefore, never varied my workouts. Don't fix it if it ain't broke, right? But that all came to a halt towards the end of the summer, when I hit a plateau and stayed there. And stayed there. And stayed there.

I didn't understand how I could be doing the very activities that had been so effective only the week or month before, and see absolutely no results. It was beyond frustrating. I just kept doing the same workouts and waited for them to start working again. I even did two 1-hour workouts per day one week thinking that would help break the plateau.

Nope.

As the holidays approached, I just gave up. I stopped working out altogether and allowed myself to indulge in all the decadent, naughty treats that Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas had to offer. As a result, I gained back about 15 of the pounds I had worked so hard to lose.

But now it's a new year. 2010, baby! I'm completely recharged and recommitted. I've done my research and understand that varying workouts is important to shock the body into responding. I'm doing more than just cardio, incorporating free weights into my routines and trying to change things up every couple of weeks, or so. And, I'm already seeing results.

Several of you have asked about my workout routines, so I'm going to start blogging about them. I've added a box on the sidebar that shows my current workout schedule. For January, it looks like this:

Weeks 1 & 2:
  • Monday: Upper body free weights and 30 minutes cardio
  • Tuesday: 60 minutes cardio
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Lower body free weights and 30 minutes cardio
  • Friday: 60 minutes cardio
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 60 minutes cardio

Weeks 3 & 4:

  • Monday: Upper body free weights and 30 minutes cardio
  • Tuesday: 60 minutes cardio
  • Wednesday: Lower body free weights and 30 minutes cardio
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Upper body free weights and 30 minutes cardio
  • Saturday: 60 minutes cardio
  • Sunday: Lower body free weights and 30 minutes cardio

My current weight routines are pretty simple. For weeks 1 & 2, I'm doing two sets of 15 reps using high weight for each exercise.

Upper Body:

  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Two-Arm Dumbbell Row
  • Standing Twisting Dumbbell Press
  • Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension
  • Dumbbell Curl
  • Double Crunch

Lower Body:

  • Dumbbell Squat
  • Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
  • Dumbbell Side Lunge
  • Dumbbell Reverse Lunge
  • Dumbbell Unilateral Calf Raise

If you'd like to know more about these exercises and routines, check out the January 2010 issue of Oxygen as that's where I pulled the information.

I'm excited to be exercising again, excited about the change to my routine and super-excited about the results I've already seen in such a short period of time. I'm committed to sticking with things this year, even if I hit another plateau, and I'm doing everything in my power to avoid that scenario.

I can't tell you as I approach that dreaded plateau weight that I'm not going to be a bit nervous. I'm sure I will. But I'm confident things will be different this time around. I'm better equipped, better informed and I'm certainly more fit than I was this time last year. Everything's in my favor.

This was Part I of what I think will be a 2-part, initial series on my workout routines. I hope to be back sometime very soon to explain what I'm doing for cardio and how I use my Wii Fit (and now Wii Fit Plus!) to full advantage.

If you have any questions just let me know and I'll do my part by blogging as I go with reports on how I'm doing, what's working and what's not.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010 Resolution Roundup and My One LIttle Word

I apologize for these being overdue. Over the past few days we've had some network issues but everything seems to be back online and buzzing now.

My resolutions for this year are rather simple. Some are specific and some aren't. Often I need wiggle room with large goals. If I lock myself into a hardcore resolution on something I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by, I have the tendency to eff it up somehow. Self-saboteur? Me?

Hell yes.

On with the show...
  1. LOSE ANOTHER 50 POUNDS: Yeah, I know this one is super-specific, but since I lost 50 pounds last year I'm pretty confident I can do it again this year. Besides, I have several external motivations that'll help keep my fire lit. Like what? Well, like the fact that I'm getting my next tattoo in April, for one. From Daniel Smith! I'm so excited and yes, I'll post pics. Promise. I'm also training for the Mud Run in June and I want to beat my 2009 time. On top of that, I have wicked costuming ideas for this year's ComiCon and the more fit I feel, the more options I'll allow myself to consider. ComiCon's in July, so my external motivators will take me pretty far into the year. Plus, as I go I'm sure to come up with others.
  2. CUT BACK OR NEARLY ELIMINATE CONSUMPTION OF REFINED SUGAR: See, now here's a case where I need to be vague. I don't consume a whole lot of refined sugar. I cut most of it out when I went vegan. But I do eat and drink more than I'd like and I really want to explore other natural sweetening options.
  3. ONE SUBMISSION PER MONTH: I've had some moderate success with my writing over the past year, or so. I've won a couple contests and had a short story published here and there. Writing allows me to flex my noodle, release the bad whispers in a constructive way and genuinely feeds my soul. I'd like to continue this and up my output. I think one submission per month is reasonable, but as always I reserve the right to modify my resolutions as needed.
  4. RE-COMMIT TO MY DAILY PRACTICE: My daily spiritual practice wavered and waned pretty hardcore over the holidays. I need to recommit to it because it anchors me through my days, fills me up and allows me a daily opportunity to exercise my will.
  5. CONTINUE PURGING, ORGANIZING and REDECORATING MY HOME: This one's pretty self-explanatory. We were able to purge a lot of clutter this past year and I want to keep that momentum going. With the newfound space, I was able to organize things better and we began redecorating with the money we made from our multiple garage sales. I have no delusions that I'll finish my entire home this year, but as long as I continue to make forward progression throughout the year, I'll be happy.
That's it! I'm keeping my list short this year so I can focus more on a handful of goals rather than try to juggle too many.

My One Little Word for 2010? Will. The faculty by which people make decisions and initiate action. Yup. I want to rock my will this year.

What are your resolutions? Did you pick One Little Word for the year? What is it?

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Day Eats

Happy New Year!

This is just a quick rundown of the food I prepared and enjoyed today. I don't know if I'll get to my resolutions post tonight, but I'll be sure to get it posted before this weekend is over.

We kicked off 2010 with bread pudding for breakfast. This recipe is one of our favorites and has garnered me a marriage proposal from a meat-loving omni. He's so dedicated to the consumption of meat, he sports a bacon tattoo on his shoulder and a sushi tatt on his forearm. But he loves it, despite it's vegan status, and we love it because it just rocks.

The recipe came to me after just a little tinkering and the desire to add texture to traditional bread puddings (that's where the topping comes in). It's a blueberry-banana bread pudding with a pecan-oat streusel topping drizzled in a warm and creamy lemon cashew sauce. The sauce isn't my recipe, though I did adjust it a bit. I got the sauce out of 1,000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson.


New Year's Dinner 2010
Originally uploaded by Marni Molina
The decadent bread pudding held us 'til dinner and I prepared a version of our New Year's Day traditional fare. We just finished big plates of toasted and steamed basmati rice topped with black-eyed peas, miso-baked tofu with a little liquid smoke thrown in for even more flavor, cornbread muffins, and red Swiss chard sautéed in Earth Balance with chopped pecans. So, so good!

Oh, and sorry about the flash photo, but it was totally dark by the time I got dinner on the table.

None of today's food was low-fat eating, but it was all vegan, homemade, mostly organic, and smack-yer-momma tasty. We're all so stuffed. Fat n' happy.

I'll be back soon to discuss my thoughts about and resolutions for 2010. I hope your New Year's Eve and New Year's Day was filled with good friends, big grins, great food, and happy surprises. May this coming year bring health and happiness to us all.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolutions and One Little Word

I'm a fan of New Year's resolutions. Probably because I'm a fan of setting goals and working towards positive change. Over the years I've had to learn not to get idealistic to a fault or too specific while stating my resolutions (and I still occasionally struggle with that), but I've definitely benefitted from the resolutions I've set - particularly over the past few years.

On January 1, 2009 I set a resolution to get healthier. To make better food choices, establish a regular exercise routine, and begin making strides to embrace the lifestyle I've wanted for years. I wanted to be fit, lean, active, strong, healthy, centered and happy. I wanted to be in right relationship with the food I eat (part of why I made the transition to veganism) as well as my body (the main motivation behind the workout routines I established for myself this past year). I'm happy to report, it was a huge success. Over this past year, I've lost 50 pounds.

Let me say that again - I've lost 50 fucking pounds!

For most of the year, I worked out regularly on my Wii Fit and also did other things to get my body moving. I even participated in the Camp Pendleton Mud Run - a balls out, challenging 10K run with giant hills, tire obstacles, river crossings, two 5-foot walls with mud on both sides, a tunnel crawl, a super-slippery hill climb, and a final 30-foot mud pit all set to screaming marines there to "motivate" you. Yeah. I did that! I felt like such a rock star and I've already made plans to do it again in 2010. My goal: improve on my time. This is a picture of me and my friends towards the end of the run, by the way. I'm the girl in the back row wearing a black shirt.

I certainly wasn't perfect all year. I made some poor food choices and backslid on the scale as a result. I went lax with my workout routine a few times and in turn, got a bit lazy. But overall, I done good. Each time I found myself off track, I was able to recognize it and return to center, resolution in mind, without egregious amounts of self-flagellation. Each "mistake" was an important lesson. Every time I rededicated myself to my goals, it was an exercise in will and realistic expectations. Hell, I even started drinking water, which was huge for me. Huge!

When I hear people bag on resolutions, I'm fine with it. We are all entitled to our own opinions. But when I hear people make blanket statements like, "Resolutions don't work," I find it irritating. First, I'm living proof that they do. Ehem ... 50 pounds down, bitches! But more importantly, I'm saddened that people don't recognize resolutions for the opportunities that they are.

Resolutions are not magic spells or wishes made to come true by Old Man Time. You can't just blurt them out on January 1 and toss your feet up, waiting for them to come to fruition. You have to work on them. You need to apply your will and actions to manifest them. And you need to stick with them, allow yourself to stumble along the way, and reevaluate them as you go, making adjustments accordingly. They need to be realistic and attainable. Follow those guidelines and resolutions can be the perfect way to manifest positive change in your life.

Anyhow, I've been considering my resolutions for 2010 over these last couple months and I'm really looking forward to getting them in writing tomorrow (blogging them). Putting resolutions out there for the world, or maybe just your friends and family, to see offers up its own endowment of accountability. If people know what you're working towards, they're more likely to be invested in the outcome. And really, so are you.

So, set some attainable goals and share them! Then, do what you need to do to make them happen.

In that same vein, author, designer and scrapbooker extraordinaire, Ali Edwards, has a clever idea that could work great in tandem with or in place of New Year's resolutions. She calls it "One Little Word," and you can read more about it in her blog post of the same name. Basically, it "can be a catalyst for enriching your life." One word that you can "focus on, mediate on, and reflect upon," as you traverse the days of the upcoming year. A theme word, if you will, that will help focus your intention and actions as you move towards positive change. I really like the idea and I'm going to see if I can come up with a word that feels right, for me, for 2010.

Anyhow, that's all I've got for now. I'll be back tomorrow with my resolutions and hopefully "One Little Word," for 2010. In the interim, think about what sort of positive change you may want to bring into your life this next year and try to pick a friend or family member with which to share your resolution(s). Someone who will be supportive and call you on your shit when you stray from your goals, invent lame justifications for non-action, get too busy, or whatever the excuse du jour is. It helps if the person is someone you trust and love - someone you won't punch in the nose when they suggest that you have gotten off track.

Have a fabulous and safe New Year's Eve. Happy New Year, my pretties!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Creamy Roasted Garlic Mashers

Raise your hand if you spent at least part of today doing prep work or pre-cooking for the big day tomorrow.

Yeah, me too. So far, I've got the Maple Cranberry Sauce made and I just finished my famous (at least amongst my family and friends) Creamy Roasted Garlic Mashers. They are amazing. I don't use a recipe when I make them, but today I measured everything as I threw them together just so I could create a recipe to share with you, dear readers. I can feel the love, can't you?

I'm serving the mashers tomorrow beneath a healthy slathering of Mighty Miso Gravy from How it all Vegan, which makes them even more heavenly. The mashers are definitely delish enough to be nommed without gravy, but it's Thanksgiving and in the American tradition of excess and indulgence, we're gonna go big or go home. Hence, gravy.

Everyone's got their own method for making mashed potatoes. Here's mine:

Creamy Roasted Garlic Mashers
makes about 8 1-cup servings
  • 3 medium heads of garlic, roasted with the cloves removed - yes you read that right, 3 heads, we likes us some garlic preciousssss
  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled
  • 4 medium red potatoes, cleaned but not peeled
  • 1 stick or 1/2 cup vegan margarine (Earth Balance)
  • 1/4 cup vegan sour cream (Tofutti)
  • 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese (Tofutti)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (or more) freshly ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cut potatoes into equal sizes. I usually quarter the red potatoes and then cut the russets into pieces that are about the same size. You want to do it this way so they cook in the same amount of time.
  2. Boil all the potatoes in salted water until easily penetrated with a fork. The time varies here but start checking them at around 15 minutes boil time. Don't let them stay in the boiling water too long or they'll become water-logged and yicky. Yeah, that's a technical term: yicky. Yuck + Ick = Yicky. Mkay? Moving on.
  3. When they are done, carefully retrieve the potatoes from the water and transfer them into a colander to drain. The tool that I've found works best for this is a spider skimmer but use what you've got. If you must resort to dumping the potatoes along with the water into a colander, just be gentle.
  4. After they are drained, carefully transfer the potatoes into a large bowl. Slice the stick (yup, the whole stick) of vegan margarine into pats and artfully place them all over the surface of the potatoes. Okay, you don't have to get too artistic here because we're about to mix it all up anyway, but I just can't seem to help myself sometimes.
  5. Using a masher, smash the potatoes by hand, mixing the vegan margarine in as you go. They must be mashed by hand. Do not, under any circumstances, take a mixer to your potatoes. You'll be breaking a major cooking Thou Shalt Not and you'll end up with a sticky, gluey mess. It'll be beyond yicky. I'm not even going to use the appropriate word here because my mom reads my blog now. Just take a deep breath, get out your masher and do it by hand.
  6. When they are about half-way mashed, add your vegan sour cream and vegan cream cheese. Continue mashing and mixing keeping in mind that Though Shalt Not Over-Mash Potatoes.
  7. When your potatoes are nearly at your desired consistency (I prefer a chunk here and there for textural interest over perfectly smooth potatoes), add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and give them one last mixing mash.
  8. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to nosh.
This recipe can absolutely be tinkered with to suit your personal tastes. If you want "cheesy" tasting mashers, try adding 1/4-1/2 cup of nutritional yeast. Or, if you want to really wow yourself and your diners, substitute a portion or all of your vegan margarine with vegan pesto and eliminate the nutmeg. Pesto Mashers rock the Casbah and are best enjoyed topped with some toasted pine nuts.

I like to use a combination of both russets and red potatoes for my mashers because it makes them creamier. It also allows the inclusion of the skin from the red potatoes, which we totally dig. But, if it's not your thing, peel those along with your russets.

One of the best things about using this recipe for entertaining is that it can be made ahead of time and stowed in your fridge. When you're ready, simply warm it up in an oven-safe dish or in your microwave. It's delicious and so decadently creamy thanks to the combination of potatoes, egregious amount of vegan margarine, and addition of vegan sour cream and cream cheese. If you're watching fat and calories, make adjustments accordingly.

The nutritional breakdown per 1-cup serving, assuming you used about 3 tablespoons of olive oil when you roasted the garlic and the brands of margarine, sour cream, and cream cheese I recommended, is as follows: 348 calories; 19g fat; 6g saturated fat; 0mg cholesterol; 1272mg sodium; 41g carbohydrates; 4g fiber; 2g sugars; 5g protein; 0% Vitamin A; 32% Vitamin C; 4% calcium; 7% iron

NOTE: The final four percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

DIY Gardening: Upcycling Broken Clay Pots

Container gardening is certainly my preferred method of growing things. Now that The Boy is back in school, I've found myself spending more time outside tending to my poor, neglected container garden. Earlier this week, I pulled some dead plants and tossed them into the yard composting bin only to notice that a couple of my clay pots had developed cavernous cracks that will not last another planting season.

As everyone who gardens in containers knows, along with proper watering, drainage is an issue of utmost importance. I usually use rocks at the bottom of my pots to facilitate easy drainage. But, I was inspired by poor broken pots and ... well, let's face it, I'm a bit hormonal right now ... so I took a hammer to them and used the broken shards of ceramic in place of rock. Upcycling or repurposing something destined for the land fill rocks pretty hard but let's face it, breaking shit with a hammer rocks even harder.


Celosia
Originally uploaded by Marni Molina
This particular pot ended up home to our wee garden gnome, Aingeru, and three new Celosia which is an annual that produces striking flowers in outrageous colors. Most importantly, because we're in the midst of a level two drought right now and it's been hot as Hades here, Celosia is quite heat-tolerant to boot. Score!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Canning Cantaloupe Jam


Cantaloupe Jam
Originally uploaded by Marni Molina
The Husband and I have been eating a lot of fruit lately. Partly because it's so damned hot here and we tend to eat as simply as possible when the mercury rises as high as it's been. And partly because we're still both working on losing weight (update on that very soon, I promise). But mostly because the fruit is so incredibly good right now!

One of our current favorites is cantaloupe - particularly the "Tuscan Cantaloupes." Holy magnificent melons batman, those babies are fruit of the gods if ever there were such a thing. The melons we've been getting are so sweet and juicy, it's ridiculous. Neither of us can remember cantaloupes being this good for a long time.

So the other day, as we sat at our dining room table with melon juice down to our elbows, we were singing the praises of the 'Loupe and I said I wished there were a way we could get melon this good year-round (while abiding by our pledge to eat in-season produce, most of which is locally grown, of course).

Perhaps the heat had gotten to my brain, but it really did take me a while to remember that I already know all sorts of ways of preserve the harvest! Freezing, dehydrating, liqueurs, syrups, canning ... I can do it all. So I pulled out one of my favorite canning books, Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda J. Amendt, and much to my sticky-fingered delight, found a recipe for cantaloupe jam. Neither of us had ever heard of melon jam before, and since I had yet to start canning this year, I decided this recipe would be my first of the season.

I just pulled 7 half-pint jars of the most delicious jam I've ever made from my canner and practically danced around my kitchen as I heard each of them ping (a sign they've made a proper seal and all is well).

So I'm happy to report that we've got some seriously kick-ass jam to carry us through the cold winter. Um, and by "cold" I mean less than 70 degrees ... this is San Diego, after all. I'm even happier to report that I still have plenty of melons left over so I can put up a whole other batch (or three) of jam if I want. Actually, that's probably a good idea because the likelihood of these seven jars remaining untouched 'til winter arrives is nil. And finally, I'm happiest to report that canning season has officially begun! I've got all sorts of wicked canning fun planned. In fact, just yesterday I scored some killer green tomatoes so I can put up some Green Tomato Mincemeat Pie Filling, which not only tastes awesome but I think will make for great holiday gifts.

That it's for now. I think I need an afternoon snack. Perhaps toast with ... oh, I don't know ... jam?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Boy's New Tooth Zombie Pillow


Tooth Zombie Pillow
Originally uploaded by Marni Molina
The Boy lost his first tooth last month. It caught us completely by surprise since it happened about 2 weeks after his 5th birthday. For you non-breeders, that's a bit young to start losing teeth. Most kids are about 6 when their choppers start wiggling loose.

The day his tooth came out I realized The Husband and I hadn't discussed what sort of Tooth Fairy-ish lore we were going to pass on nor had we even thought about how we were going to handle liberated teeth and their exchange for gifts or cash. When I asked The Husband about it, I got the stock response, "Whatever you want to do, baby."

Since I already knew I wanted to make The Boy's tooth receptacle (DIY or die!), I began googling for tooth fairy pillow patterns and inspiration. I came across a tutorial for an adorable Ballerina Tooth Fairy Pillow and decided I'd start there and alter it to suit our family aesthetic.

As I sat and read the instructions for the Ballerina Fairy, I realized the pocket in which the discarded teeth were to be placed was inside the fairy's mouth. Which begged the question ... "What kind of fairy eats teeth?"

The tooth fairies from Hellboy II crawled through my brain for a moment and I briefly indulged the idea of trying to recreate one of those before I came to my senses and remembered how terrifying they were. Evoking terror in my 5-yr-old wasn't my goal, but I was on the right track with regard to a lovely twist on the traditional lore.

Then it hit me: Zombies eat people. Surely they eat teeth as well. I mean really, have you ever seen a discerning zombie picking out icky bits before sinking teeth into dinner? Nope. Me neither. And it's no secret that I love zombies.

I printed the pattern for the Ballerina Fairy so I could use the overall shape but pretty much changed everything after that. I gave my zombie a gaping maw and embroidered around it to reinforce the mouth pocket and underscore his zombie-ish-ness with pale blue lips.

I also gave him goofy teeth and a scratch that he probably earned wrangling a meal. I decided he'd also lost an eye at some point, and embroidered an "x" where it should have been. I selected a blue button for the other eye to match The Boy's blue eyes.

And, of-course, no zombie would be complete without a large wound. This zombie was turned when someone went after his brains and left a large chomp out of his head. I used glittery red felt to represent glistening brain matter.

On the back I embroidered the words "Tooth Zombie", the date The Boy lost his first tooth, and his name (though I've edited that out). I was going for campy-cute and I think I achieved it. More importantly, I had a blast designing and creating this little Tooth Zombie and The Boy absolutely loves it.

He now knows, every time he looses a tooth, he needs to feed it to his Tooth Zombie. In exchange, the Zombie (whom we have yet to name) will leave a small gift for The Boy. This time, it was a new set of 3D reels for his View-Master - The Animals of North America.

Just thought I'd share my latest project and remind you all to watch out for those Tooth Zombies!

Monday, June 22, 2009

School Lunches

The Boy has been in preschool all this past year. Last week was the final day of the standard school year and today marked the beginning of summer school. The summer school hours are a bit longer than standard school hours and I neglected to read the fine print that announced each child will be provided a free lunch if they don't bring their own. 

I already send him to school every day with juice and 3 snacks, but nothing substantial enough to be considered lunch. So today, when his teacher pulled out his lunch bag and saw there were only snacks inside, she assumed he would be one of the children receiving a free lunch.

Well, today's free lunch was chicken nuggets. Ack!

Thankfully, she remembered that we are vegan, and didn't allow The Boy to eat any chicken. It was an issue, though. He saw all the other kids eating chicken nuggets and wanted to eat some, too. He thinks he eats them at home, but it isn't real chicken, of-course. Unfortunately, because he's a special needs kid, I can't really explain the difference in a way he'll understand. At least not yet. So now I need to come up with some creative lunches to pack for him. Perhaps, when the school lunch menu becomes available, ones that mirror what the other kids will be eating so he doesn't feel left out.

When he's home, I cook for him and he eats a hot lunch. Sometimes he'll eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but most of the time he gets a freshly cooked meal. But, they don't have access to a microwave there and, beyond PB&J sammies, I'm at a loss as to what sorts of things I can send him to school with. If anyone has any experience sending your veg kids to school with packed lunches, I'd love to hear what sorts of things worked best for you.

In the interim, I ordered the following two books:

Better Than Peanut Butter and Jelly: Quick Vegetarian Meals Your Kids Will Love by Wendy Muldawer and Vegan Lunch Box: 150 Amazing, Animal-Free Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love! by Jennifer McCann. I'm hoping I'll get some groovy ideas from these babies that'll help me come up with things The Boy will eat and enjoy. As we experiment, I'll report back on what works and what doesn't. This should be interesting and hopefully, fun. 

So, expect to see a couple book reviews and some lunch box food porn here in the near future and wish me luck. I have a feeling I'll need it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Winner Winner Chickpea Dinner ... er ... Brunch

If you've been following along this week over at Cafe VegNews you know they've been running a contest. Each day, they've given away a signed copy of Isa Chandra Moskowitz's new cookbook, Vegan Brunch. Yesterday, I decided to have a crack at their question of the day, which was:

"What's your favorite restaurant to go to for brunch?"

My answer:

"My fav restaurant for brunch is WaterCourse Foods. Everything on their menu is available vegan. They offer up mouth-watering tofu scrambles, a blue plate special, pancakes, french toast ... but not "normal" french toast, whoa no. *Banana Bread french toast.* Yes. Let's just take a moment to savor that thought.

...

Mewkay.

Also for the having, an Amsterdam Hash that's just as good as the name implies, and ... the nummers to end all nummers ... biscuits and gravy. Uh! So good, makes you want to smack yer mama. Metaphorically speaking, of-course.

And I'm not even mentioning the giant cinnamon rolls. Nope. This is me. Not mentioning them.

Did I say they're in Denver, CO yet? Thank goodness I live in San Diego, CA or I'd be working off a never-ending tab washing dishes or something. But every time I'm in Denver, I can be seen fogging up the glass in the wee hours of the morning, waiting for them to open and creeping out the wait staff."

Turns out they liked my answer, so they announced in today's post that I won! Le squee!

I'm so looking forward to diving into Vegan Brunch. I've heard great things about it and The Husband and I do love a hearty brunch on Sunday mornings. 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE ZOMBIES?!?!?!

Woody Harrelson and zombies?! I'm so there! Le squee!

  
nomnomnomnomnom

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New DIY Zine

I'll admit it - I'm a total sucker for magazines. There's just something about them that makes me weak in the knees. I love their seasonality, the articles and pretty pictures, plus they make great art and collage fodder.

So earlier today imagine my squee-ish delight when I spotted a zine I'd never seen before with the tag line, "Easy Ideas for Hands-On People." I practically started drooling. I grabbed it off the stand and immediately began thumbing my way through it. Inside I saw...
  • an article on 13 smart ways to snazz up your kitchen
  • building plans for a DIY kitchen serving cart
  • an article about throw pillows complete with DIY instructions
  • a piece on how to use color to create specific moods in various rooms
  • plans for building your own outdoor dining table and benches
  • decorating ideas
  • tips on hanging art
  • an article with instructions on 3 different ways to refinish an old table
  • plans for an outdoor potting bench
  • tips for DIY bouquets
  • clever garage storage ideas
  • plans for outdoor movable planter boxes
  • plans for a kick-ass arbor
  • a list of kitchen-scraps that make for great garden fertilizers
  • plans for making and instructions for flying your own kites (both diamond and box-styles)
  • tips on saving energy
  • info on cooking, product reviews, and more

All that just in the one issue! Plus, each of the projects has a DIY versus purchase cost comparison along with a difficulty rating and estimated time requirement. Needless to day, the zine took up residence in my shopping cart and I've had my nose in it ever since I got home. The name of this new gift from the pantheon of DIY deities is "Fresh Home" and, at least for now, I think I'm in love. There's only one thing about it I don't like at this point, and that's it's decidedly yuppie feel. I'm used to consuming my DIY literature smothered in punk rock/alternative sauce. But I'm willing to look past the pastels and sweaters tied 'round the shoulders as long as they keep coughing up great ideas, projects and plans. If you're a hardcore DIY'er like me, check it out for yourself. Because it's brand new, you can subscribe for only $10 (half off the cover price).

Score!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Memorial Day Barbeque

Last Monday we had another tasty barbeque over at my parents' home. We grilled veggie kebabs again, this time without sauce and just seasoned with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. On our kebabs were giant mushrooms, fingerling potatoes that I had parboiled that morning, and beautiful tomatoes.

We also grilled tofu slathered in homemade barbeque sauce. I used the recipe in Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites and it was delish. It had the taste of a traditional barbeque sauce, but with a kick from the pepper and a distinctly homemade texture. You just don't realize how much nicer it is to have homemade versions of sauces and condiments you typically buy until you make 'em yourself. Above and beyond anything you can get off the shelf of your local market, for sure. Plus, it was easy to make and virtually fat-free. I should have pressed the tofu, though. Next time, I'll remember to do so.

I threw together a slaw with red cabbage, jicama, raw pumpkin seeds, and seedless cucumber dressed with a little lemon juice, olive oil, parsley and some other stuff, but it wasn't nearly as good as the slaw I made for our last barbeque.


Grilled Pineapple
Originally uploaded by Marni Molina
For dessert, we enjoyed grilled pineapple. Yum! We ate a lot of grilled pineapple last summer and I'm so happy grilling weather is back. We love this tasty, healthy, simple, and delicious dessert. If you've never had grilled pineapple, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. The heat from the grill caramelizes the sugars in the pineapple and adds some nummy crispy bits, too. Fabu!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Apple-Rosemary Oat Bars

Nancy Krcek Allen's article in the May/June 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times, entitled "Herbal Essences," caught my attention right away. I absolutely love cooking with herbs, experimenting with different combinations, and discovering new pairings. There's just nothin' like cooking with fresh herbs. That's part of the reason I maintain an herb garden. That and herbs are hella easy to grow.

Since The Husband and I are on the wane, I selected the recipe that delivered the lowest amount of fat per serving (4g): Apple-Rosemary Oat Bars. Oh man, are these little babies delicious!

First, they are not too sweet. I love that. So they can easily be eaten with a cup of coffee or tea for breakfast, as a snack any time of the day, or as a light dessert. Whenever you want, really. Second, the lemon zest and juice really balance out what little sweet there is in the bars, adding a fun little zing to every bite. Third, the rosemary. How I love rosemary! Paired with apple, it's just fantastic. Fourth, the consistency is just perfect. Nice little crunchy bits on the outside and a soft, moist center. 

The only change I made to the recipe was I substituted spelt whole grain flour for the all-purpose flour. No problem there. The recipe offers several options with regard to nut butters - I used almond butter. Yum!

I'm looking forward to working our way through this batch of bars and I think this recipe could serve as a fantastic template to play with and create new herby, fruity bars. The possibilities are vast.

Winner!

Thursday, May 28, 2009