December 28, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Buffy looking spiffy after a morning at the spa

On Wednesday, December 14, I took my beloved dog, Buffy, to the veterinarian for the last time. I knew the day was coming, and in theory I was prepared, but still, my heart was broken, and I could barely see, as I drove home alone. Buff was 19, and had been a member of our family since we adopted her from the Humane Society when she was three.

The Humane Society was on my daily route, and I stopped there once or twice a week to see the dogs. I was looking for a second dog to add to our family, and be a companion to our dog, Starr, so he wouldn't have to spend his days alone. I saw Buffy shortly after she was brought in, and it was love at first sight. She was small, cute and friendly, and I put my name on her card and started making arrangements for the rest of the family to come meet her, as per the HS rules for adoption. Of course everyone, including Starr, agreed she was adorable, and we set about becoming her third home in three years — her forever home. (Her first family gave her away when they moved. Her second family decided they had too many pets and dropped her off at the HS.)

Buffy preferred not to have her photo taken.

She walked into our home like she'd lived there all her life — no fear, no confusion, no hesitation. She was sweet, loving, confident and well-trained, and she gave our feisty Starr something to think about. Although her papers said she was a miniature poodle, she was so overgrown and matted I believed she was a mixed-breed of some sort. Also, because I'd never had a dog that needed more than baths and brushing, I didn't quite understand the concept of hair verses fur, and the need for haircuts every eight weeks. I learned fast. The first groomer I took her to told me she was so matted she might need to be stripped, or closely cropped. I vaguely agreed, but when I went to collect her, my adorable little dog had been turned into a giant hairless rat, and I was horrified. She was so hideous no one in the family wanted to walk her, but her daddy came through for her, and walked her until she looked normal again, and the rest of us could take over.

When we moved to Seattle, of course the now 17-year-old Buffy made the cross-country trip with us. She loved to ride in the car, though the length of the trip may have exceeded her expectations. She seemed to enjoy it, though, since every two hours or so we'd all get out, go for a walk and have a few snacks. She made the trip five times, and was a real travel-pro.

She wasn't fazed in the least by the move, settling in to her new home just as she had the last time, so many years ago. She made herself right at home, finding a comfy spot to nap. She took down the comforter, snuggled between the pillow and covers, and settled in. She wasn't too pleased when I ran for the camera after discovering her in the guest bed, but she didn't move from her spot — just opened her eyes slightly to give me a "look" before shutting them and continuing with her snooze.

Lest you think she was a passive dog, she was not. It's true she was loving and gentle, but she also was smart and a little sneaky, making it impossible for me to ever place hors d'oeuvres artfully on the coffee table. She was also an escape artist who could find her way out of any fenced space, and the lower 12 inches of the fence around our large yard was covered with chicken wire.

Sept. 2011, 19 years old.
When we bought a house and moved again this past fall into what would be her last home, she was just as calm and unperturbed as ever about the change. Sweet little Buffy, I still keep seeing her everywhere, and when I'm away from the house, I suddenly think I have to get home to check on her or take her outside. Then I remember. I miss her so much.

What? Are you taking my picture AGAIN???

Up until the end, Buffy always wanted to be in the room where the action was. If we had company, she was there. Although she, herself, wasn't so active anymore, she liked to watch. One person she was particularly interested in was Miss E, and she was always right by her side as Miss E played. I'll leave you with a video taken one year ago of Miss E taking Buffy for a walk — a favorite pastime for both of them.

December 13, 2011

We have a winner

The cookbook giveaway has ended, and the random number generator has chosen a winner. The winner of Celebrate Vegan is Ashley, a vegan from Texas, and this was her first blog-contest win. Thank you all for entering — I wish I could send cookbooks to everyone!

December 08, 2011

Sunday brunch for 10 | Spicy cashews

We recently had the pleasure of hosting a brunch for 10 guests. Because the rest of the weekend had involved a lot of cooking, and also considering the early start to the meal, I wanted to keep the menu simple. That doesn't mean I wanted to skimp on flavor, of course, just on preparation time.

The decision was made to serve a soup, salad and muffin brunch. Way back in September 2009, I reviewed a cookbook devoted entirely to soups, Love Soup, by Anna Thomas, and I decided to make one of the memorable soups from that book.

Rich and creamy spicy Indonesian yam and peanut soup with its fragrant ginger-infused base, is entirely worthy of company meals, in my opinion. Yams, carrots and parsnips mingle beautifully with herbs and spices to compose a soup that's perfect for warming guests on a chilly morning. To accompany the soup we had a large salad based on baby greens, dressed with piquant creamy miso salad dressing from The Vegan Table by Colleen Partick-Goudreau, and low-fat chocolate zucchini muffins form The Happy Herbivore Cookbook (reviewed here). To perfectly round out the meal, one of the guests brought a toothsome loaf of homemade whole grain bread.

To finish our little brunch with a sweet flourish, we had yummy Lazy Samoas from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and monkey bread, baked by another guest.


Spicy cashews

This is a snack I found at Manjula's Kitchen that I thought would be a nice thing to add to our usual appetizer tray of olives and artichoke hearts at the brunch described above. It sounded just like the spicy cashews I once bought at an Indian deli in Milwaukee. They tasted like they had been made with eggs, even though I'd been assured they were not. Now, of course, I know it was the Indian black salt, kala namak, that gave the cashews their characteristic sulfur (eggy) taste. The cashews I made with Manjula's recipe tasted exactly the same. I recommend trying the recipe yourself — it's delectably spiced. But I warn you, they have a distinctly eggy flavor.

I used half the oil called for in the recipe, but had a little trouble with the spice mixture coating the nuts, so ended up adding a little more oil to the warm, roasted cashews, and shaking them in a jar with the spice mix, which worked perfectly. Next time I make these I'm going to try something different. I'll oven-roast the cashews without oil, then drizzle a small amount of unheated oil onto the warm nuts and shake them with the spices. I'm trying to use less oil, and am hoping that by not letting the roasting cashews absorb oil in the pan, I can get more mileage from less oil by adding it after they are roasted. What do you think?


There's still time to leave a comment and win a copy of Dynise Balcavage's new cookbook, Celebrate Vegan. Enter here. (Update: the contest has ended.)

December 04, 2011

Celebrate Vegan — Book review and giveaway

If you follow the Urban Vegan blog (and you do, right?), you know that Dynise Balcavage provides her readers with clever, beautiful and delicious recipes that are usually surprisingly easy to prepare. You can cook the recipes for every day meals, but feel perfectly comfortable serving them to dinner guests. In her second cookbook, Celebrate Vegan: 200 Life-Affirming Recipes for Occasions Big and Small, Dynise shares her collection of elegant but (mostly) easy, vegan, seasonal recipes, for celebrating special events from around the world. She's covered everything from the most typical U.S. celebrations to holidays like Timkat, the Ethiopian Epiphany, for which she provides recipes for Ethiopian collards, mini injeras and spiced lentils. Accompanying each recipe or group of recipes, is a short, informative discussion about the holiday, as well as chatty, personal anecdotes that weave Dynise's vibrant personality into the menus.

I was one of the lucky recipe testers for Celebrate Vegan, so I can tell you first hand how good the recipes are. I made the three Ethiopian dishes mentioned above, and they were great. Here are photos of some of the dishes I've tried, and the holidays associated with them.

Cinnamon-date scones - Snow Day (Hey, why not treat a snow day as a holiday?)

Paté aux champignons éxotiques - Bastille Day

Cecina - World Vegetarian Day

Mushy peas (OK. This one wasn't my favorite, but my husband liked it.)

Hot and sour carrots and lentils - New Year's Day

Tofu with broccoli and black bean sauce - Chinese New Year

Mega-Israeli salad - Hanukkah

Spicy tomato-lemon dressing - Girls' Night In

(You can find recipes for the hot and sour carrots and lentils, and the tofu with broccoli and black bean sauce in the sneak peek feature for Celebrate Vegan on Amazon.)

To make your recipe choices especially relevant to your needs, Dynise has coded the recipes as fast, frugal, kid-friendly, make ahead or omnivore-friendly, and marked them with icons for easy identification.

If you'd like to win a copy of Celebrate Vegan, leave a comment on this post, and I'll randomly choose a winner Dec. 11.

UPDATE: This contest has ended and a winner has been selected.

Full disclosure: I received two free copies of the cookbook from the publisher, and I'm giving one away. I earned my copy by participating in the recipe testing. I was not required to write a review. I am not an affiliate of this company. All opinions are my own.