Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happiness is....


And a friend to snuggle with!

Wishing you all the best this holiday season, from our home to yours!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Only THOUGHT It Was Cold Before...

Now it is 9 degrees outside and let me tell you, THAT is cold!! Luckily, I have all sorts of fabulous knitware to keep me warm. All that's missing is the perfect, well-fitting sweater :-) (I'll keep trying for that one!)

I made the "Raw Parmesan Cheese" from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Cooking by Beverly Lynn Bennett and Ray Sammartano. It is so delicious! Fair warning: it doesn't taste anything like parmesan cheese. (This is a good thing in my book!) It's just a yummy topping for Italian food or salad or soup or pizza or whatever. It tastes vaguely cheese-ish, due to the nutritional yeast, so you must like nutritional yeast if you make it. It's a sprinkle-on kind of topping, not something you melt. Okay, enough already! Here is the recipe; try it if you dare:

Raw Parmesan Cheese

3/4 C whole raw almonds
3 Tbs raw sesame seeds
3/4 C nutritional yeast flakes
pinch sea salt

Process almonds and sesame seeds in the food processor for 1-2 minutes, until finely ground.
Add nutritional yeast flakes and salt; process for 1 more minute.
(That's it.)
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

I just read another book that I really enjoyed. It's called The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg. It's a collection of short stories, about women, and about things they do or revelations they have as they mature. The stories are really great, rather poignant, but not sad. Just... so true. It's a quick read; take a look.

Okay, I have 2 questions for you. First: what is your favorite vegetarian/vegan cookbook, and why? Second: what is your "go to" meal? What is that one thing you make to eat when you are really hungry but don't have anything prepared or planned or maybe not much food in the house? What do you fall back on eating in times of desperation? OR, what is that one meal you love so much that you secretly eat it all the time??

I'll tell you a few things I "go to" in my times of need. First, for general purposes, I almost always have some cooked grains in the fridge, usually brown rice, but sometimes white rice or rice leftover from Chinese take out. Sometimes it's quinoa. Or couscous. Then I steam or microwave some frozen vegetables (always have a huge bag of stir fry veggies from Costco in the freezer.) Veggies go on top of grains, then I might add some peanut sauce, some tahini dressing, or just tamari and gomasio. That's my main emergency meal. A close second, because I love it, is a can of Rotel tomatoes, a can of drained black beans, and a half of a cake of tofu, diced. Mix these 3 things, warm it up, serve it over grains or baked potatoes or even by itself. Excellent.

I am just jumping around here, aren't I? Knitting some fingerless mitts and finishing the socks (both holiday gifts). Enjoying staying warm by the fire. Hope you are all feeling warm and delicious, too.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Officially, it's still FALL!

Sure feels like winter to me! Yesterday, Mike and I went shopping and I couldn't believe how cold it was. To reward ourselves for finishing, we stopped in at a restaurant and had a snack. Mike was facing so he was looking out the window and he kept saying, "Look! Those people are running! I wonder what's going on?" We thought something horrible was happening. As time went on and we saw people running back and forth, we figured out that nothing horrible was happening. People were running because they were COLD!!

Okay, I'm a bit dumb. I was planning my bean ball experiments and, as I continued reading Veganomicon, I realized that there is a recipe for bean balls that uses seitan in the book! Duh! No need to reinvent the wheel. Still... their recipe uses kidney beans which just aren't my favorite, so I guess I will play with it a little bit. More soon...

Here is a salad I made this weekend that I really enjoyed. It was filling, yet not too heavy. I made it to go with our homemade pizzas and it all went, so I guess everyone liked it.

1-1/2 C frozen, shelled edamame, thawed
1-1/2 C frozen corn, thawed
1 C diced cucumber (I used one of those seedless hothouse cukes)
1/2 C chopped red onion or scallions
1-2 Tbs toasted sesame oil
3-4 Tbs rice vinegar
1/2 to 1 Tbs miso
black pepper, to taste
(salt, if you wish, depending on amount of miso used)

Put all the veggies in a bowl. Whisk together the sesame oil, vinegar and miso and pour it onto the veggies and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I didn't really measure anything, but you can just adjust the dressing to your own taste.

I've been reading The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Cooking over the weekend and I really like it. I made the "Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Loaf" (photo above) and it was so delicious! There are two things I am really interested in trying. One is called "Vegan Cheese Sauce Mix." You make up a dry mix which includes cashews, oats, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, arrowroot, and some other spices, which you grind up in the food processor. You store this mix in your fridge, and then, whenever you need a "cheeze" sauce, you whisk some mix with soy milk or water and warm it up on the stove. Brilliant. You can serve it over potatoes or pasta or vegetables or whatever.

Then there is the "Raw Parmesan Cheese." I don't really like parmesan cheese; the smell really puts me off. However, I do like some little something on top of my pasta or whatever. Usually, I used gomasio, which I love, but an alternative would be nice. This is a mixture of raw almonds, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast and a pinch of sea salt. Doesn't that sound good? I'll let you know what I think once I make it.

Anne asked what my favorite vegetarian cookbook is. Hmmm.... good question. I'm the first to admit that I'm rather fickle and my preferences change every day! I guess the thing that would make a cookbook a favorite would be that all the recipes I try are good. So, for today anyway, some of my favorites are:

The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick Goudreau; every recipe is a winner. The recipes are written so clearly and with such care, it's just a joy to read and cook with it.

Quick-Fix Vegetarian by Robin Robertson. Everything I've tried has been wonderful. Quick and easy recipes, easy to double, easy to find ingredients.

Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna J. Sass. Pressure cooking bible!

The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas. One of my kitchen fixtures.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Well, you all know that I am a vegetarian who loves to cook and experiment; I am into yoga; and I enjoy knitting. I thought that these three things would be descriptive enough and give me lots of blogging topics, but I neglected to mention the very heart of what I am: I am a reader! Yes, it's true, I always have my nose in a book. My house is loaded with overflowing book shelves. There are piles of books on my nightstand and on the floor next to my bed. I have a huge list of books on request from the library. My Amazon wish list is long and evolving and ever-changing. I read everything from cover to cover, including cookbooks and knitting books. Everything. VERY RARELY to I not finish a book, and it's a sad day when I give up on one. That's not to say that I don't have many books in my pile that I've been reading for years. Yes, YEARS! I just put a bookmark in them and pick them up when the urge strikes!

So, I thought I'd share a few of my current reads with you, in no particular order:

1. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Cooking by Beverly Lynn Bennett and Ray Sammartano
This book is great! Lots of basics and mostly recipes. My favorite features are the "extras," which are little tips, explanations, definitions, and pitfall alerts. I always learn something new! There are some soups I must try.

2. Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD
I love science and I love learning more about how the human body works. The first half of the book explains heart disease in great detail. Dr. Esselstyn has done a study on reversing it using diet and nutrition. The diet is VERY strict, vegan with absolutely no added fat and no high fat foods, but it sure beats open heart surgery. The second half of the book is recipes.

3. Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan
Sort of combines knitting and science! (and/or math... but don't let that scare you away!! Norah does the math for you!) Norah has a biology degree AND an art degree and she combines the two in her knitting in amazing ways. In this book, all of her patterns are inspired by nature and I am just fascinated by reading about the creative and innovative ways she uses different stitches to make unusual shapes. Beautiful!

4. Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard
I mentioned this one before; still working on it. Wendy has designed a bunch of sweaters, nearly all worked in the round, top down, no seams! She has a ton of advice about how to achieve the perfect fit, which I hope will be helpful! I'm trying to choose the sweater I will knit after I finish my Christmas knitting...

5. The Yin Yoga Kit: The Practice of Quiet Power by Biff Mithoefer
Trying to expand my yoga repertoire! I took a yin yoga class with Sarah Powers and it was truly life-changing for me. In yin yoga, you practice poses which specifically address the bones and connective tissues of the body, mainly between the navel and the knees. (as opposed to "regular" or yang yoga, which focuses more on the muscles.) This book and kit comes with practice cards, which allows me to choose one of two yin poses to add to my practice. This is such an over-simplified explanation; ask me if you want to know more!

6. Indigo Dying by Susan Wittig Albert
(heavy sigh.) Oh, I just love these books!! Yes, I always have some cookbooks in the pile, and knitting, and yoga, but the true loves of my books are the mysteries! Oh, I dabble in historical fiction and popular non-fiction, but give me a good mystery and a cup of tea and I'm all set. Indigo Dying is the 11th book in the China Bayles mystery series. Yes, I am a bit late to the China Bayles tea party, but Susan is still writing the series and I am delighted. China Bayles was a high-powered Houston lawyer, but she woke up one morning and quit her job and bought an herb shop in a small Texas town. Somehow, there is always a mystery for China to solve, often with the help of her best friend, new age fanatic Ruby, and/or her partner, ex-cop Mike McQuaid. I don't want to give too much away!

When I read fiction, especially mysteries, I want something that is smart, well-written, thoughtful. I like character development, especially throughout a series. I like real-life situations, suitable to the time period of the novel. I really dislike series where the plot and theme are the same within every book. The China Bayles series is just about perfect! You get characters you really care about; fun and interesting plots and mysteries; all around good reads! You don't HAVE to read them in order, but you should.

To add even more to the books, Susan loads them with lore and facts about herbs. She has all sorts of folk-loric medicines and even recipes! If you are an herb lover, you must read these books! Once you get addicted, you can visit Susan's websites and blogs and sign up for her newsletters, which are well-written and full of fun facts about writing, about all of Susan's books, about Susan's life (which, ahem, includes knitting:-) and more about herbs.

No, I'm not affiliated in any way; I just really enjoy reading this series. I bet you will too!!

Back to Christmas shopping....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Warm Neck is a Happy Neck

Yes, I do realize that I've been neglecting my knitting posts! Don't worry, though; I haven't been neglecting my knitting :-) I'm just busily working on my holiday projects, and I don't want to give anything away. I will share my latest finished object with you now, simply because it is so beautiful and delicious. (modesty aside...)

It started with the Noro scarf that everyone who is anyone is knitting right now. (just in case you aren't anyone, you can look at the scarf and the pattern here: )

Yes, it is beautiful. Beautiful!! The Noro colors are truly unrivaled and simply breathtaking. However, like many people, I have some Noro issues. Two are minor, but one is so major it's almost a deal-breaker. First off, there are always bits of grass and leaves and twigs in the yarn. I know it's minor and easy to pick out, but why? Why can't they clean the vegetable matter out of their yarn?

Second, why is the yarn so scratchy? I don't mean itchy like your normal wool, I mean sharp and scratchy. I have heard that the Silk Garden is much softer after it's washed, but I have never tried Silk Garden, because of issue number three, which is the biggie:

KNOTS. (that's plural). Every skein of Noro Kureyon I have used has had knots in it. The worst part is, wherever the knots occur, the yarn colors are joined randomly. So... you are knitting along, enjoying the surprise of the gradual, beautiful color changes, eagerly awaiting the next change, when you come to a knot. The gradual color change turns into an abrupt and seemingly random color change which can pretty much ruin the beauty of the thing you are knitting. If you have knit with this yarn, you know what I'm talking about. I have tried piecing together skeins to keep the colors going, which is a huge pain in the neck. Plus, I ended up buying way more yarn than I needed and I couldn't help but wonder: WHY??? Let's just add that the price of the yarn is not cheap.

Noro felts like a dream and adds a dash of beauty to any felted knitting, but I'm not really interested in dealing the with knots right now. So, I won't be knitting the Noro scarf... at least not immediately. (I never say never. I reserve the right to change my mind completely.) I really don't have time to deal with it while trying to complete my holiday knitting.

However... I do love the scarf. I love the way the 1x1 ribbing looks, the way the scarf lies flat, the neat edges. I'm not a huge fan of knitting miles and miles of ribbing, though. Could I make it through an entire scarf? Absolutely! Not only did I make it, the knitting went quickly and easily and I enjoyed it and might make another one!

Here are some pictures of my scarf. I used Patons SWS (Soy Wool Stripes). I chose this yarn because I still longed for the gradual color changes of Noro. These colors aren't nearly as beautiful or brilliant as Noro, but it's still pretty in a very subtle way. I didn't alternate two different colors; I just knit it up. It's soft, no veggies, and not one single knot in all three skeins! If you are interested, I used size 8 needles, cast on 29 stitches, and slipped the first and last stitch of every other row, the row that begins with a purl stitch, slipping purlwise with yarn in front. It made a neat and pretty edge.

Yes, it is a Christmas gift... but for whom??