November 30, 2010

Curried Chickpea Cakes and Coconut Panna Cotta from Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook

Running Press recently published bestselling author Kim Barnouin’s new vegan cookbook, Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook, and the publicist for the book offered to send me a couple of the recipes to test and post. You can read more about Kim on her blog,, but I'm sure you're probably already familiar with her book, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch.

Photo courtesy of Running Press

I'm always interested in trying new recipes, so I agreed to sample and post them for you. We tried the curried chickpea cakes, and they were easy to make and delicious. I liked them so much I plan to bring them to a party this weekend. But, to be honest, I thought they tasted even better the next day, so I'm going to make them on Friday and reheat them on Saturday. We served them with broccoli, rice and veggies, and leftover cranberry sauce, but when I bring them to the party I'll probably make some sort of topping for them — maybe something with avocado as shown in the photo. (Although the recipe considers one cake a serving, I think an adult will eat at least two of these for dinner.)

Curried Chickpea Cakes

Makes 10 Servings
  • 1 (15-ounce/430 g) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup (20 g) sliced green onions, both white and light green parts
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) light coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons evaporated cane sugar
  • 2/3 cup (75 g) breadcrumbs, plus 1/4 cup (30 g) for coating
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2/3 cup (130 g) brown rice, cooked
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) grapeseed oil or toasted sesame oil, for pan searing
  1. In a large food processor, combine the chickpeas and green onions. Pulse until combined. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the coconut milk, sugar, 2/3 cup (75 g) of the breadcrumbs, curry powder, nutmeg, and cumin. Stir together with a wooden spoon until well combined.
  2. Stir in the brown rice and the salt.
  3. Mold into 10 mini patties.
  4. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chickpea cakes to the pan and sauté until there’s a nice golden sear on the bottom. Flip and sear the other side as well. Continue with the remaining cakes.
  5. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
Serving Size: 123 g; Calories 170; Fat 7 g; Saturated Fat 1 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Carbohydrates 23 g; Fiber 3 g; Protein 4 g

I didn't try the second recipe, though it sounds very luscious and exotic. I'm not a big dessert person, and I think I'm still overwhelmed by all the dessert I ate for Thanksgiving — and after. I'd love for you to try it and let me know what you think.

Photo courtesy of Running Press

Coconut Panna Cotta
Kim says, "I never thought it would be possible to have such a creamy and rich vegan dessert, but here it is. A brilliant and determined chef friend of mine gave me some of her trade secrets to pull this one off. You have to refrigerate for a couple hours so it can set, it’s a good one to make on the weekend." Makes 6 Servings
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) cream of coconut (like Coco Lopez)
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) light coconut milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 packet of vegan gelatin mix, unsweetened and unflavored
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) frozen mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) hot water (or more)
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) evaporated cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 5 fresh strawberries, minced, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup (25 g) toasted coconut, for garnish
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream of coconut, coconut milk, and coconut extract to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the gelatin and cold water together until the gelatin dissolves completely.
  3. Add the gelatin mixture to the coconut mixture and whisk, until well dissolved. Continue to simmer 3 more minutes.
  4. Pour the coconut mixture into six small ramekins and cover with plastic wrap.
  5. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours to set.
  6. In a separate medium saucepan, heat the berries with the hot water over medium heat. When they are defrosted and starting to break down, add the sugar and stir until it forms a sauce. Add more hot water if necessary, one tablespoon at a time. The sauce should be slightly thick.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract. Strain the berry sauce to extract the seeds. Drizzle a little of the berry sauce on each serving plate.
  8. Remove the panna cotta custards from the refrigerator and run a knife or toothpick along the sides of the ramekins to loosen.
  9. Carefully turn each ramekin upside down onto a plate. Remove the ramekin and garnish with strawberries and coconut.
Serving Size: 1 Ramekin 155 g; Calories 250; Fat 14 g; Saturated Fat 13 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Carbohydrates 33 g; Fiber 2 g; Protein 2g

The above two recipes were reprinted with permission.


No more leftover cranberry sauce

Did you know that cranberry sauce tastes great in a smoothie? Here's one made with banana, mango, mixed berries, cranberry sauce, almond butter and almond milk. So, so good. I'm sorry to see what appeared to be an endless supply of cranberry sauce finally come to an end. But it was a good end.


Here's a yarn you might find interesting
Bethany and I were out shopping again — this time for yarn, so her husband can make his mom a scarf for Christmas. (Yes, her husband knows how to crochet.) We went to three yarn shops before we finally found nice yarn without wool or silk, or believe it or not, fiber from pearls. We were getting kind of testy at the lack of selection, but finally found yarn made from banana peels or bamboo or something — can't remember which, as I'm a little dizzy from the strain of reading all those yarn labels.


Farewell mofo 2010
So this is my last mofo 2010 post, and though it was fun, I don't think I'm a post-a-day sort of blogger. I'll be taking a little rest, but will be back soon with weird noodles and other stuff. Thanks for reading!

November 29, 2010

The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life

The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life is the perfect title for Melisser Elliot's colorful and charming new book. A book with attitude, it truly is a guide to everything one needs to know about being vegan. Melisser says, "Being vegan is so much more than what a vegan can and can't eat; it is an ethical stance against the mistreatment of all animals. More than a diet, it is truly a lifestyle." The book begins with a story about the author's background, and evolution to veganism, and continues with an explanation of the many different aspects of a vegan diet and lifestyle.

There is an informative chapter on nutrition, and another on vegan living, as well as a chapter on shopping for vegan-appropriate non-food items such as makeup, shoes, clothing and household cleaning products.

A chapter devoted to food begins with helpful information about stocking the pantry, and also contains clever hints about what, and what not, to feed an omnivore friend. (Don't give them tofu and do give them chili.) Once Melisser leads you into the kitchen, she doesn't leave you wondering what to cook; the recipe chapter contains an eclectic selection of deliciously interesting but doable dishes that would appeal to both inexperienced and advanced vegan cooks.

The handbook's final chapter provides do-it-yourself information and advice on everything from gardening to making a knitted cupcake potholder!

This would be an especially wonderful gift for any new or aspiring vegan on your list. But really, you don't have to be a new vegan (or a young vegan!) to enjoy The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life.

About the Author:
Melisser Elliott, twenty nine, is the founder of Sugar Beat Sweets bakery and the author of the blog, The Urban Housewife. She has won awards from VegNews magazine, has been featured by Bust, The Washington Post, Vegetarian Times, Craft, Make, Cupcakes Take the Cake, All Things Cupcake, SuperVegan, Crazy Sexy Life, and Vegan Nutritionista; and has appeared on Everyday Dish TV.

Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of this book by the publisher, Skyhorse Publishing. I was not required to review it, nor was I paid for this review. All opinions are my own.

November 28, 2010

How I turned salad into soup, and other tales.

If this is your first visit to my blog, you won't know that I tried a Mark Bittman recipe for raw butternut squash salad and served it as part of our Thanksgiving dinner. Other than substituting dried cherries for raisins, I followed the recipe very closely, expecting a fresh, crisp, refreshing accompaniment to the rest of our meal. Suffice it to say there was a lot left over, and I didn't personally want to eat it because I found it weird and slimy. Nor did my husband like it.

But I sure didn't want to waste it, either, so last night it became soup. As salad it was icky, but as soup it was fantastic. The salad, including the dried bing cherries, was tossed into the pressure cooker along with a finely diced medium potato and enough water to barely come to the top of the veggies. The pot was brought to pressure, and the soup cooked at pressure for five minutes. The pressure was brought down, and an immersion blender was used to blend everything to a luxuriously creamy soup. I added some parsley and fresh ground black pepper, but that was all.

It was rich and incredible tasting. Even my memory of its origins couldn't dampen my enthusiasm — and you know how that can happen sometimes. The only thing I might change if I were making the soup again on purpose would be to add much less oil, because it is, after all a soup, not a salad. But it sure tasted good with all the fat. Do you think marinating the squash for two days had a huge effect on the soup's flavor or could I just start from scratch with the salad ingredients (minus some of the oil) and make a similar tasting soup?


A good book and a smoothie

The day after Thanksgiving, Miss E came to visit at noon, with plans to spend the day and sleep over. We had a great time playing with legos and blocks, chasing each other around, and dancing to Caspar Babypants. Miss E slept very well Friday night, and woke up hungry for a pancake breakfast. We had our favorite oat and wheat pancakes covered in leftover cranberry-apple sauce. For a late morning snack, I offered Miss E a smoothie, and of course, she accepted.

Got smoothie?

She enjoyed her blueberry-almond butter-mango-banana-soymilk smoothie while Grandpa read her a book.

When it was time to go home, Miss E tried to delay her leave-taking by putting on the wrong shoes. What a rascal.

November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving | 11-25-10 Three years old

After two days of prepping and cooking, it's over. Well, not exactly, if you count leftovers, but Thanksgiving dinner 2010 is a thing of the past. I hope those of you who celebrated, whether peacefully and quietly, or in a riotous crowd, enjoyed the holiday. We had a three-generation family celebration with everyone contributing to the menu (except little Miss E of course — she contributed her charm). On Wednesday I posted photos of the planned dinner, and yesterday I was just too tired to post anything at all. So here's a little wrap-up, including my opinion on raw butternut squash salad.

We started the meal by munching on appetizers. Our youngest son and his girl friend made creamy smooth and scrumptious baba ghannouj and hummus, and yes, they roasted the eggplants on the gas stove burner. The hummus was especially creamy because they removed the skins from the chickpeas — something I would probably never have the patience to do. In the upper left of the photo you can barely see the cashew-walnut cheese I made. I covered it in black pepper, smoked paprika and green onions to disguise its weird purplish color. I think adding walnuts to the cashews was the cause of the odd shade, but the taste and texture were great. I made it in my Vitamix and it was ultimately creamy. The spreads were perfect with the home-made pita brought by our middle son, fake triscuits from Whole Foods, and carrot sticks.

When our oldest son and daughter-in-law showed up with this appetizer tray, I wondered why I had bothered to cook the rest of the meal. I think we would all have been happy to munch the appetizers and have a little dessert.

But, alas, we managed to also eat a full meal. Here's the stuffed seitan.

To accompany it we had a few sides, like roasted brussels sprouts with rosemary and garlic. I could eat these every night.

These are the leftover sweet and tart carrots, which I forgot to photograph last night. I made them with capers this year because we seem to have a lot of capers.

I really love cranberry sauce so I always make way too much, thinking everyone else loves it as much as I do. I'm thinking pancakes with cranberry sauce on top for breakfast tomorrow. We'll be having pancakes because Miss E is sleeping over tonight, and she likes cranberry sauce as much as I do. Genetic, I guess.

I think this dish, green onion salsa from Viva Vegan, was the star of the meal — everyone loved it. I made it with Italian flat parsley instead of cilantro because one of our guests hates cilantro. It's supposed to go with empanadas, but I thought it would be a nice condiment with seitan and stuffing.

And here's the raw butternut squash salad from Mark Bittman. OK, I tried it, and it's very pretty; I made it with dried cherries instead of raisins to accommodate our raisin-hater. Some people liked it and some didn't. I found it a tad, um, slimy, and won't be making it again. I'll probably cook the leftovers and turn them into soup. But, hey, it's a Mark Bittman recipe, so who are you going to believe, him or me?

Here's the obligatory picture of my plate. At the bottom is the potato kugel brought by our oldest son. I LOVE this dish, and for me, no holiday would be complete without it. But, did I remember to take a photo? Nope.

Finally, we reach the end of the feast. Here is an apple-blueberry tart sweetened with apricot jam. I was making this up pretty much as I assembled it. The crust, however, was from The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life, and was made the day before Thanksgiving and held in the freezer. I made a tart instead of a pie so I used the leftover dough from the double-crust recipe to make little stars for the top.

And last but not least, is the pumpkin pie. It's a fat-free pie from Happy Herbavore, but I couldn't help myself from putting chocolate chips on top during the last 10 minutes of baking. I won't disclose how many pieces I ate last night, nor today. That's enough about that.


This blog was three years old ... yesterday
I meant to have a post on Thanksgiving, because who could think of a better day to have a blog birthday? But I forgot. I wanted to thank you, the people who read this blog, for reading and commenting, and just for being there. The world seems a much cozier place because of all of you, readers and bloggers from around the world, who post thoughts and ideas and endless wonderful recipes. THANK YOU.

November 24, 2010

Our Thanksgiving menu ( if all goes according to plan)

The plan for Thanksgiving dinner is set but flexible, just in case. I never know what whim might cross my mind at the last moment, or what ingredient might have been forgotten. I keep changing things as the day gets closer but here it is the day before and this looks like the menu.

Appetizers: baba ghannouj, homemade pita, cashew cheese, pickled things

Main dish: stuffed, roasted seitan filled with rice, wild rice and sourdough bread stuffing (lots of veggies in there, too), and gravy

Sides: sweet and tart carrots, roasted brussels sprouts with garlic, cranberry-apple sauce, raw butternut squash salad (from Mark Bittman), green onion salsa (from Viva Vegan), maybe green salad

Desserts: pumpkin pie (possibly the fat-free one from Happy Herbivore. Has anyone tried it?), apple and blueberry tart with apricot jam

If you're a last-minute planner and still undecided about what to serve for your main dish, how about an Un-Turkey? Miyoko Schinner, creator of the original Now and Zen Un-Turkey, generously shares her recipe for this beloved creation on her latest blog post. Get the Unturkey recipe here. I've never tasted or made one, but I'm thinking of possibly incorporating the seasoning mix into my seitan this year. The recipe includes the seitan, seasoning mix, marinade, dressing and gravy.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I've got to go start the cooking.

November 23, 2010

Don't take your shopping list to Costco

So ... we had a free pass to Costco Saturday night, and we went on our first ever shopping spree to that crazy place. I dutifully wrote out a shopping list, and we headed off to see what we could find. I'll tell you up front we spent $100, and didn't buy one single thing on our list. In our defense, except maybe for one or two items, everything we bought was something we actually use, but not in such an abnormal quantity. For example, my husband really, really wanted a 10-pound bag of organic brown basmati rice, even though I prefer short grain rice, but I finally gave in. It was a great price, and the bag itself was very cool, but we don't have storage space for so much rice, and we don't go through it as fast as we used to when we had three hungry boys to feed.

Then there was the case of 18 Larabars for a measly $15. Who could resist? OK, so I normally maybe buy five Larabars in a year, but that's because they're so expensive, right? And they are delicious, but did I really need 18? Thank goodness the five pound bag of chocolate chips had butter and cream in the ingredients list. And I sensibly passed up the three quarts of organic carrot juice, after reminding myself we can barely get through one quart before it turns gray.

I came out of the produce room clutching a three and a half pound bag of broccoli for $3.99 and the same amount of crimini mushrooms for about the same cost. We now have a rule at our house that broccoli must be consumed at every meal. Three pounds is a LOT of broccoli. And there will be a surfeit of mushrooms in the Thanksgiving dinner. I also wanted a 10 pound bag of giant onions but my husband talked me down. He, on the other hand, got a one pound tub of organic salad mix for $3.99. We also purchased a five pound bag of frozen blueberries, but we usually keep a lot of frozen fruit in the house for smoothies, so that seemed normal. And a giant jar of almond butter.

What was I thinking? I'm not even a big fan of sweets.

The one thing I bought (besides the Larabars) that makes no sense is a 28-ounce jar of capers. It seemed like a bargain, and I have until April, 2013 to use them up — should be plenty of time. By the way, what's your favorite way to use capers? Maybe I also bought something else that calls my judgment into question — a 10-pound bag of organic evaporated cane juice. Now that's just plain nuts, but it helps to explain why we decided a Costco membership is not in our future.

I don't remember what else we got but I just want to describe the party scene at Costco before signing off. There were people holding large trays of food samples everywhere we looked, and shoppers were walking around gnawing on whole chicken legs, among other delicacies. There wasn't a single thing we wished to sample, but everyone else seemed to be enjoying the food. Is this the way it always is at Costco or is this a holiday occurrence?

I don't mean to imply that shopping at Costco is a bad idea, but it would require a completely different mindset from what we've been operating on, and eating broccoli for most of our meals. I'm intrigued but cautious.

November 22, 2010

The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur | Keep away from heat

You probably thought the title of the post referred to me, didn't you? Well, not exactly. It refers to Kelly Peloza's new cookbook, The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which includes more than 140 tempting recipes, like Giant Bakery-Style Double Chocolate Cookies, Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies, and Caramel Apple Bars! Peloza is an art student, blogger and cookzine author, as well as a maker of extraordinary cookies.

She wants her cookies to be made of easily accessible, natural ingredients, and she wants each and every recipe to be delicious. The creative cookie recipes are meant to be a testament to the fabulous taste and texture of vegan cookies, not an ode to healthy vegan fare, and if you are looking to make vegan cookies that are every bit as decadently delicious as butter and egg-laced treats, then this book is for you.

The cookies are divided into chapters such as Totally nuts and Seeds, with myriad versions of peanut-and-other nut butter-filled confections, Blissfully Chocolate Cookies, with recipes for chocoholics, DIY Versions of Mass-Produced Cookies, with recipes for treats like graham crackers and vanilla wafers, and more. There's even a chapter called Healthier Cookies and Baking for Special Needs. The book is loaded with photos — one for each cookie recipe — making it a very colorful and inviting book.

Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies

My son and his girl friend baked a batch of cookies from the Nostalgia: Everyone's Favorite Cookies chapter. I asked them to make Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies, partly because the recipe was lower in fat than some of the others, and partly because I liked the "soft, chewy" description. They used white whole wheat flour instead of unbleached white, but otherwise made the cookie recipe as written.

The cookies were very sweet, as the recipe said they would be, and wonderfully soft and chewy, very much like the classic chocolate chip cookies I (vaguely) remember. They were delicious, and I would make them again.

I think most people would love this book, but here's a note for my more health-oriented readers. I'm probably in the minority, but not only do I prefer to reduce sugar and fat in my general diet, but also in the "treats" I consume. I'll probably try more recipes from the book, but no doubt will alter the recipes a little to make them "healthier." I understand the concept of separating treats from regular food, and not wanting "special occasion" food to taste too "healthy," but in my experience, special occasions happen with more frequency than most of us admit.

That said, there are lots of recipes in the book that would lend themselves to a little alteration, if that's your style, and the author even gives suggestions on how to do it. A lot of the recipes are already pretty low in fat, compared to similar ones I've seen, but I might make them a little less sweet. I'm looking forward to trying some of the other recipes in The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur — there are loads of tempting ones, and I feel very tempted.
Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a free copy of the book but did not require me to write a review. I didn't get paid to write the review.


Weird product discovery of the day
(or keep away from heat)
I purchased two new potholders over the weekend to replace the ratty, falling apart ones we've been using, but didn't read the tags until I got home. As I was cutting off the tags, I checked to see if the pot holders could go in the washer and dryer, and I found this warning: keep away from heat. Um, these are pot holders.

November 19, 2010

Fermented black beans | Mutant bread

We just watched one episode of 30 Rock and two episodes of Glee and I was going to go read (cookbooks, of course), but I'm feeling bad about not doing a mofo post today. I know some bloggers blog every day all the time, and here I am going nuts after a mere three weeks. This isn't the post I had planned, but this is what I've got.

Here's a quick little stir-fry made with broccolini, carrots, celery, tofu, brown rice, Chinese red pepper and salted black beans. I got the beans (sometimes called fermented black beans) in an Asian market, and have been experimenting with them.

They add a wonderful flavor to traditional Chinese dishes — or quick stir-fries. It only takes a very small amount to flavor a dish. The red pepper looks just like cayenne but is milder and sweeter. It adds a nice, slightly spicy piquant taste to food.

And here, is a mutant bread. It looked perfectly normal as it was rising, but took on an artsy free-form shape of its own choice as it baked today. I admire its independence.

Have a nice weekend. We have a free pass to Costco tomorrow evening so we're going to see what kinds of food bargains we can find, just in time for Thanksgiving.

November 18, 2010

More Viva Vegan

It's time for more cookbook love for Viva Vegan. After his first successful recipe adventure with Latin food, my husband was anxious to try some more.

This time he made Latin Baked Tofu as the main dish. The marinade for this dish was so delicious I just wanted to eat it all right off the tofu.

To go with the tofu we had Yellow Rice With Garlic, another winner. I'm really enjoying the flavored rice dishes as opposed to plain old boring brown rice. It's nice to have a change once in a while.

To balance the plate, we had roasted brussels sprouts — not a cookbook recipe but a family favorite. Brussels sprouts turn into veggie candy when they're roasted. Yum. This will probably be one of our Thanksgiving sides.

Here's my plate. Can we eat like this every night?

November 17, 2010

With a slap and a squeeze | Videos to share

Until we came to Seattle a year ago, I never had a microwave oven. I never wanted one. I've always had questions about their safety, and the healthfulness of the food prepared in them. But that's not to say I didn't sometimes use a microwave. For years I used the one at work to heat up lunches, or heat water for tea. And once I attempted to bake an apple in it.

Since finding one in our rented house in Seattle, I experimented with a instant microwaved cupcake, and popcorn, but I prefer my cupcakes and popcorn made in a more conventional way.

One day recently, while slightly under the weather, the only the food that appealed to me was a baked potato. Not wanting to heat the oven for one potato, or wait an hour for it to bake, I turned to Mr. Microwave to see if he was up to the task. I scrubbed the potato, poked it in a few places with a sharp knife, wrapped it in a paper towel and popped it into the microwave for five minutes. Then I turned it over and zapped it three more minutes. (Your time may vary depending on the type and size of the potato.) When it was done, I removed it , set it on the counter and gave it a whack with the palm of my hand. (I read about whacking the potato on the Internet.) I sliced it open, gave it a squeeze and was ready to roll. I like my potatoes naked with a pinch of coarse salt (I use Redmond Real Salt) and a few grinds of pepper. The potato looked very sexy, and tasted pretty good, though I swear there's something different about it. The texture is a little off, and the flavor not as developed as in a baked potato.

Still, it was good enough that I've done it again — and again. The second potato was topped with gomasio — the Japanese blend of toasted sesame seeds and sea salt.

The last potato, in addition to salt and pepper, was topped with fresh, finely chopped young ginger, ground coriander seeds* and avocado. It was the best one, yet.

*I picked up a small, very small mortar and pestle at Goodwill mostly to see if I would really hand grind spices or if a mortar and pestle would just take up space in the already crowded kitchen. I knew its small size would probably lead to seeds flying out of the mortar as I worked, and I was right. So far I've used it once to grind coriander, and the result was a highly aromatic coarse powder, much superior to the pre-ground spice. Time will tell if I'll use it again. I'm not investing in anything bigger until I have proof that it will get used. I'm also considering a coffee or spice grinder. Do you grind your own spices? What do you recommend?


Raw butternut squash salad
I'm considering making the salad for Thanksgiving with dried cherries because one of our guests doesn't like raisins. (Roll your mouse over the image to get the play button.)


Turkey Talk video
Here's a wonderful and informative turkey video from Farm Sanctuary just in time to encourage potential turkey eaters to choose a gentler Thanksgiving centerpiece. Feel free to share.

November 16, 2010

Intemperantia pave glace

A couple of weeks ago I received an email that said simply, "Do you do reviews on your site?" There was no salutation, no signature, and the sender was listed as, "mail." I was about to discard it as spam but curiosity got the better of me, and I googled the Web address attached to the word, "mail." My search turned up a chocolate Web site that looked very, very interesting, and I emailed back in the (briefest possible) affirmative.

I got another terse email similar to the first with a single statement about vegan pave glace that was "to die for." Well, OK. You got me. I sent my address. I just received a small mailing pouch with warnings about keeping it cool, filled with a melted ice pack and a tiny, elegant, orange- dotted box approximately 1-1/2-inches by 2-1/2-inches by 1-inch, tied with a purple organdy bow. The tension mounted.

The opened box revealed a package of four small pieces of dark, cocoa-dusted chocolate.

These were clearly the sort of morsels that should be nibbled slowly, and enjoyed maximally. At this point I was tempted to whisk the little box off to a secret location and inhale the contents by myself, but I did the right thing, and shared with my two co-tasters. I think we all were in agreement that this was chocolate of a higher level. It was silky, creamy, luscious and pleasurable in a way that's hard to describe adequately. This was possibly the most luxurious chocolate I've tried in recent memory. The way it kissed my tongue was so amazing I became concerned that it wasn't really vegan, and went to check the Intemperantia Web site again.

If you are looking for the perfect chocolate gift, wedding favor, or personal indulgence, consider Intemperantia. 100% organic chocolate made with 100% cocoa butter — no added oils, no artificial colors, preservatives or flavorings.

Disclaimer: Intemperantia sent me chocolates to sample but did not try to influence my review, nor did they require a review in exchange for their product. And they didn't pay me.



Over at Diet Dessert and Dogs, Ricki is giving away a fabulous baking package. Go check it out here.

November 15, 2010

Trolling Seattle

Where do you go when you only have one day to show out-of-towners around your Seattle neighborhood? They'd already explored downtown and visited Pike Place Market, and though there's lots more we could show them in that locale, we decided to stick closer to where we live, and show them some of the funkier Seattle landmarks.

Before we left the house, I stoked them with a nice bowl of hot oatmeal with all the trimmings. Everyone wanted something different — cashews, maple syrup, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, almond milk ... etc.

me in my new hat.

After breakfast, while my husband was at work, I took Judy (and Michael though this wouldn't have been his first choice) to one of my favorite Seattle Goodwill haunts. This was in honor of Judy's and my history of resaling together. She's way more dedicated to the art than I, but I'm always up for a little second-hand-store surfing. She found a dressy rayon shirt, and I found a cozy new hat.

Spring rolls, steamed veggies, peanut sauce, spicy soup, sweet black rice.

When we finally finished shopping, it was past noon — time to meet my husband for lunch. We went to Araya's Vegan Thai restaurant lunch buffet. Araya's is vegan except they offer cream for those who want it in their coffee. The buffet is not quite as great as ordering from the menu at night, but it's pretty satisfying. It was crowded with eager eaters so I only photographed a few of the many tubs of food available at the buffet tables. The buffet starts out with two kinds of pickled vegetables, and continues with at least two different green salads. Then comes fresh fruit. It continues with fried spring rolls, steamed veggies, peanut sauce, soup, and sweet black rice with coconut milk topping. I like to fill my soup bowl with steamed veggies then ladle in spicy soup.

The next section of the buffet has coconut curry, fried rice, and pad thai. At least that's what I think is there. I'm probably leaving things out so I suppose, in the name of accuracy, I really should go back and get it right. :D And there's usually a mammoth bowl of sweet, fried skinny noodles. Of course there are lots of sauces and toppings.

This is what my plate looked like after my (first) trip to the buffet. Just looking at the photo tugs my memory and stomach, and makes me want to go back.

Michael with Lenin.

After lunch we needed to walk, so we headed to Fremont, the center of the universe, to take in the sights. Fremont has many more strange and unusual attractions, and events, than most neighborhoods of its size, and you can read about some of them here. In the photo above, you can see Michael striking a silly pose with the 16-foot statue of Lenin. (No, not John Lenin.) Many of the sights in Fremont are so unexpected that they cause tourists (and others) to become silly. Who would expect to find a statue of Vladimir Illych Lenin, rescued from Slovakia by a local Seattle art lover? After the fall of the Communist government of the former Soviet Union in 1989, Lewis Carpenter took a second mortgage on his house to bring the statue, found mud-covered in a dump, to Fremont. By the way, the statue, which is controversial as you might imagine, is for sale, if you are interested.

Photo credit: Michael

We traipsed for a couple of hours from one end of the neighborhood to the other. Judy and I bought scarves from the outdoor bargain rack of a very cool shop. (Did I mention that all the stores in Fremont are "cool?") We posed in front of the outdoor sculpture, Waiting for the Interurban, but the photo was too weird to share. The public sculpture is kept dressed by neighborhood residents, who choose themes related to the seasons, newsworthy events, political statements, or whatever they want. In the above photo of a section of the sculpture (with us removed), someone is in the process of wrapping the figures in crepe paper. Sometimes, though, the figures are dressed in actual clothes, and look just human enough to require a double-take.

Judy and Michael with The Troll.

No tour of Fremont would be complete without a visit to The Troll under the Aurora Bridge at the base of Queen Anne Hill. The Troll is clutching an actual Volkswagon beetle with a California licence plate, in its hand. Even the most jaded tourists are taken aback at the sight of The Troll, and want their pictures taken with it. After The Troll, we finished out tour with a stop at Theo Chocolate factory, where you can sample fair trade organic chocolate to your heart's (and stomach's) content. It's pretty hard, after trying all the flavors, to walk out empty-handed, and we all bought chocolate to take home.

The most famous event in Fremont is possibly the Solstice Parade, which begins with a nude bicycle ride through the streets, but we had to settle for the more stationary weirdness for our little tour. Next time you're in town, be sure to visit Fremont!