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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

An Apology and Update

Hello there, dear readers. I must tell you how sorry I am that I disappeared without a word a couple of months ago. Without going into particulars, something traumatic happened to me (and Husband) a little while back. Once the physical pain subsided, the emotional pain set in nice and deep and I’ve spent the last six weeks or so just being a zombie…trying not to do anything, see anybody, or even get out of bed. I’m a firm believer in listening to your body when you’re grieving and healing and my body has basically been saying “F@*k it!” to the whole world.

I’m starting to feel like me again, slowly but surely. I have a long way to go, I know, but at least now I can see that there is a time in the not-so-distant future when I will not feel so utterly lost and broken.

*phew*

With that out-of-the-way, I wanted to tell you that I started cooking again this week! My sister bought us a stove top grill/griddle pan (the kind that fits over your burners) and can I get a HELLSYEAH!!! for the awesome power of the stove top grill!?! Naturally, the first thing I made was pancakes…you know me…can’t resist breakfast food or carbs of any kind! I just used my old stand-by recipe but stirred in some chocolate chips and toasted coconut (for colour, of course!) How nice it was to cook all the pancakes we needed on one pan, all at once! And how evenly they browned! We also tested the grill side out, grilling agave- and Dijon-marinated tempeh steaks one night and sweet chili lime tofu steaks the next. I have a confession…I think I like the grill side better. Blasphemy, I know; but, the grill marks! And the sizzle!

Yesterday, I made Black Bean Burgers from Hot Damn and Hell Yeah. The flavour was great but they didn’t hold together as well as I would’ve liked. I think in the future, I’ll purée the beans, veggies, and rice together before forming the patties and see if that helps. To go with those burgers, I made my very first batch of homemade hamburger buns. They were a flop. I didn’t like the recipe I used at all. They didn’t rise very well and they didn’t brown very much. The interior of the buns was surprisingly light and airy, though, and the sesame seeds scattered on the tops were a nice touch.

I’m sorry I have no photos…I have hardly touched my camera in the last two months. I’m hoping next week will be the week when inspiration takes over and I am a helpless slave to my 50mm. Keep your fingers crossed for me! And until then, thanks for your patience and understanding, dear readers. I’ve missed you.

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…dear blog. I’m just a wee bit over-extended right now. I’m getting my photography business on it’s feet and that, plus my part-time job, are daunting tasks. Not to mention, I shot a wedding this past weekend and have over 1000 images to edit through and I’m prepping for a wedding in March that I am shooting and catering!!!

Please excuse my absense. I’ll try to be back in the next week or two with a little something for you.

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Husband and I moved into our own place this past weekend. Words cannot express how wonderful that makes us feel…we have alone time again, we’re using our stuff again, we can walk naked to the bedroom from the shower (!!!), and best of all, I have my own kitchen. (Please insert sigh of relief and elation here)

We had been moved in for a grand total of perhaps 40 minutes before I started to cook. Now, to be fair, I spent most of last week carting over all my kitchen stuff to the new place and getting it all organized. Come move day, the kitchen was completely ready to start using….can you see where my priorities lie?!

The very first thing I whipped up in my kitchen: one giant vat of potato salad for a BBQ we were attending that evening. As a main for Husband and I, I marinated some slabs of tempeh in my favourite store-bought BBQ sauce, tweaked with a light drizzle of maple syrup. Cooked over the grill and eaten al fresco with good company, it was a perfect dish. But, on to the salad! I have to brag a little here, I make the greatest potato salad ever. I know everyone says that about their potato salad; but, mine really is the best *wink*.

I won’t include an actual recipe because I change it up a little bit each time; but some things are always the same…I leave the skin on the potatoes. I can’t eat potato salad without the skins. I always stir in way more fresh herbs than is necessary…this time around it was flat-leaf parsley and dill. The way I see it, the more fresh herbs you add, the more you taste them and that can’t be a bad thing, right?! Besides, have you ever eaten anything so perfect as potato salad heavy with fresh dill….mmmmm….

It was very well-received at the BBQ. In fact, a friend who had already eaten dinner with her family stopped by to hang out and she had two helpings! I gorged myself on it…just let loose on that bowl without thinking about etiquette or calories.

I guess the point of my little anecdote is that I’m back in the kitchen! It was nice to see my cast iron pan, my great-grandmother’s wooden spoon, my coffee grinder, my vintage Juice King, you know…all the things I love so much and have missed like crazy these past seven months. Oh, did I mention that I have room to expand! I can start shopping for more dishes…EEK!

This week, I’ve made every one of our meals from scratch. It’s been just perfect. Husband says I stand around the kitchen with a dopey lovesick grin on my face. I sip strong coffee from my favourite mug while I brainstorm dinner ideas (lentil bake and seared rapini this evening, if you must know) and I know that I’m consumed in the honeymoon phase. I hope it never passes.

I must apologize for the lack of photos to accompany this long-overdue post. I’m in the process of trying to tackle the office. Right now it’s in a state of chaos, boxes and piles everywhere. I don’t even have a desk or computer…I’m upgrading this week and didn’t bother bringing the old ones along with me. So, sadly, I have not taken a single picture of what I’ve been making…I promise to make it up to you as soon as I have my shiny new 27″ iMac!

If you’ll excuse me, I must go check on the tofu jerky I’ve been dehydrating since 7AM…*dopey grin and lovesick sigh*

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I have disappeared from the Internet almost entirely, huh? My apologies. Things have gotten very hectic this month. With work and family emergencies and medical appointments and apartment hunting and birthdays, you know, life…we’ve been resorting to almond butter sandwiches on farmer’s rye for most of this month. On the plus side, Husband and I found a place of our own!! We take possession next week (EEK!!) and I have a billion and one things to get done before then.

I need to tell you about my new kitchen. First of all, it’s the biggest kitchen I’ve ever had, which is so nice. It has more counter space than I’ve ever had, I could stretch out and take a nap on my counter if I were so inclined. And, and I have a double sink!! I have never had a double sink, ever! Ooh, how excited I am about a double sink. Plus, the window faces west so I’ll have all that evening sunshine pouring in while I’m making dinner. Can you picture it? Late afternoon…muffins cooling on the counter, entirely sun-drenched in that rich orange glow….*sigh* It’s going to be amazing. My own kitchen, how I’ve missed you. I would love to write you a very long letter, my own kitchen, about all the wonderful things I am going to do in you, make in you; but, I feel like that could get out-of-hand too easily. Only three more sleeps till I get to lose myself in that marvelous kitchen!

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A Delicious Mishap

My one year blog anniversary was on Friday. Happy birthday, café karma!! I had this wonderful plan for a shoot involving this amazing cake I’ve been dreaming up since December…yup, I like to plan that far in advance. I went out and bought the few props I needed for the shoot and gathered the ingredients I’d need for my dream cake.

I had this wonderful plan for a dense, deeply coloured date cake with coconut cream filling flavoured with orange and a brown sugar frosting generously slathered on the cake. I was going to shoot it on a pretty crystal platter with a shimmery gold background. Are you picturing it?!?! Doesn’t it look marvelous in your imagination?!?! It did in mine, too.

Unfortunately, my filling went bust and I had a culinary meltdown (a kitchen hissy-fit, if you will) and I decided to put my precious camera away before it got damaged by the flying rage foam that was coming out of my heavy-breathing mouth….how’s that image for a pretty imaginary photograph?!?!

I wanted to make a coconut whipped cream with just a pinch of orange zest for flavour. I chilled my can of full-fat coconut milk for 12 hours and when I opened it, no separation…there was no solid coconut cream on top. I gave whipping the full can’s contents a go and that was disastrous. On a lark, I opened up a second can of coconut milk, a different brand, and still no solid cream on top. No filling for this girl’s date cake…

What killed me about this is I’ve never opened a can of coconut milk and not had a solid coconut cream on the top before. I normally shake my coconut milk violently to ensure no solid top…and, now, this one single time I’m relying on having that solid cream…the coconut gods frown on me. Tsk tsk, coconut gods…shame on you for denying a girl coconut whipped cream for her blog-birthday cake…

Fortunately, the cake and frosting were delicious. Husband and I very much enjoyed breaking off giant chunks of cake and consuming it with equally giant spoonfuls of frosting. I have several birthdays to celebrate in the next little while; so, that gives me plenty of reason to try, try again to achieve perfection with the coconut filling.

In the meantime, I leave you with the recipe for the date cake. It’s moist, dense, smoothly flavoured and such a wonderful hue…almost a shade of redwood. The brown sugar frosting was a basic penuche frosting recipe that I veganized using Earth Balance and soymilk…if you’ve never had penuche frosting before, be warned…it is essentially fudge. You’d have a difficult time finding a sweeter frosting, but, mmmmm….if it isn’t the most delicious thing ever…*drool*

Date Cake

1 cup pitted dates

-1 cup soymilk

-3/4 cup sugar

-1/4 cup oil

-1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

-1 tsp. vanilla

-1 cup all-purpose flour

-1 tsp. baking soda

-pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one loaf pan. Set aside.

Combine the dates and milk in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, just to soften the dates.

Pour the dates and milk into a blender. Add the sugar and blend till smooth. Add the oil, applesauce, and vanilla and blend again to incorporate. Pour contents into a mixing bowl.

Sift together all the dry ingredients. Add the flour mix to the date mix a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until cake is set in centre and the sides begin to pull away from the pan. Let cool completely before removing from pan.

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Inspiration…

…is such a funny thing, isn’t it? I’m always so amazed by what inspires me and how different things will spark inspiration in different ways. Being a trained “photographer” (I put that in quotations because, although it is my passion, it is sadly not my livelihood right now), I was taught to find inspiration in everything I saw. Generally speaking, I can see inspiration everywhere I go. I’m thankful for that.

Being a person who spends a good portion of their waking hours in the kitchen, I can also smell, feel, and taste inspiration. For example, just yesterday, I was walking down Yonge Street and got a whiff of something that smelled like whipped cream and heaven…in reality it was just the waffle/crepe shop with their front window open…and I was hit so hard with an idea for a flavour of vegan ice cream I really want to create. And hit hard! I could taste the exact flavour I want, I could see it and I could almost feel the cool spoonfuls melting on my tongue. I was so preoccupied with the idea of it that I rambled to my Mom about it hours later on the phone.

That leaves sound, doesn’t it? I’ve convinced myself all my life that if I had to pick hearing or sight, I would definitely pick sight because hearing doesn’t affect me quite so much. I’m basically tone deaf and have no natural rhythm whatsoever. I didn’t start paying attention to music until I was about 15. I just listened to whatever anyone put on and essentially forgot music was on. Then, my parents bought me an acoustic guitar and I started taking lessons. After a few months of practicing and developing calluses on my fingers, I noticed something incredible…music started to become more audible to me. And I found myself able to understand it: the notes, the melody, the lyrics. That’s what started me listening to music and researching music and, especially, enjoying music. I started to soak it all up. I even wrote a few things of my own along the way.

When Husband and I started dating, I was introduced to different types of music: rockabilly, punk, and hardcore namely. I devoured them. Okay, not so much with the hardcore but the rockabilly and punk for sure. I love the catchiness and twanginess of the rockabilly and I love very political, somewhat melodic punk.

Recently, I’ve been finding so much inspiration in left-wing political, acoustic punk. So much I wanna cry sometimes. Or scream. I get so much inspiration coming at me that I don’t know how to catch it and hold onto it, nurture it and then release it. I’m left with a big pile of half-ideas and fragments-of-thought at my feet and not a clue how to pick up the pieces. Funny, isn’t it? It’s the inspiration itself that has given me artist’s block.

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The Hierarchy

One of life’s little annoyances often comes to me in the form of the following comment: “You’re vegan? But you’re wearing a leather belt…” This prompted me to explain my hierarchy.

The way I see it, I chose to become vegan for moral and environmental reasons. I have always been very concerned about the environment and have always tried my best to keep my carbon footprint in check, even before I knew what a carbon footprint was. My concern for the environment led me vegetarianism as a kid and further led me to veganism in January of last year.

Things I purchased before going vegan, like my 8 year old leather belt or the feather duvet I purchased when Husband and I first moved in together, are still functional, regardless of whether or not they make me a “good” vegan. It’s more damaging to the planet to just toss those things into a garbage bin to find something more vegan-friendly so, yes, I do wear a leather belt, and I sleep under a feather duvet….until they are no longer usable and I don’t feel like any less of a vegan for doing so. I haven’t purchased anything containing animal products since going vegan; but, I certainly won’t be wasteful. I’m not comfortable accommodating one part of my belief system to compromise another.

That sort-of ties in to another interesting battle…organic vs. local. I try my best to purchase organic when I can; but, I do tend to believe that local trumps organic. For one, a lot of local producers have organic practises without having the certification and I feel just as comfortable supporting a non-organic family farm located just outside Toronto as I do supporting an organic farm in California. Plus, purchasing local increases the demand for local products in your area. If the demand is increased, the farms might just be able to afford getting the organic certification or other small farms might be able to step in with their own products, thus increasing the type of products available for me to purchase local.

I’ve always been a fierce supporter of the little guy, a defender of the under-dog and I believe firmly in doing what you can for your community by starting in your own backyard, and branching out from there. For those reasons, I tend to support the independent markets in my area, compare manufacturing locations on labels just as much as I compare ingredients, and support local charities first and foremost. To me, that’s all part of veganism.

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