Twenty Days of Happiness Part 16: That Time I Was On Wheel of Fortune

There’s a scene in A Muppet Family Christmas where Ernie and Burt (from Sesame Street) have a conversation with Doc (from Fraggles) and Ernie and Burt can’t help pointing out what letter every word begins with.  “Bunk beds: B words!” they say as Ernie chortles.  When Doc looks at them askance they explain, “Where we come from, this is small talk.”  My sister once said that the scene reminded her of our family — except that complaining, not letters, are our family’s small talk.  It’s not that we are unhappy people.  We just like to air our grievances.  But sometimes it’s good to air positive feelings too and that’s just what I plan to do.  In this 20-part series, I focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.


Look Mom, We’re On TV!

At this time two years ago, I was working long hours at the Los Angeles office of a law firm that was in a downward spiral.  Objectively, I knew I was lucky to have a “good” job where I had many friends.  But the constant undercurrent of negativity that existed because of the firm’s precarious financial situation was still taking a toll.  In the evenings, I would put my son to bed and switch on the TV just as Wheel of Fortune came on.  I would call out letters and puzzle solutions and think to myself, “I could totally do this.”  I imagined winning big in the Bonus Round and using my winnings to fund a move back to the East Coast.

Finally, I visited the Wheel of Fortune website and filled in the contestant application.  A few months later, I got an email inviting me to an audition.  In small print, the email said that I was welcome to bring a friend along and audition as a team.  I invited my husband.  We called out letters, jumped up and down and clapped, then held our breath as the names of those who made it to the final round of auditions were announced.  We made the cut and had the chance to play a simulated game.  Again, we enunciated and smiled, but we failed to solve a single puzzle. Surely a bad sign?

Months passed.  One day as I was sitting in my office, I came to the decision that it was time to give notice and move back to the East Coast — with or without the benefit of game show winnings (and without my next job lined up). A few weeks later, the movers came and packed up our apartment.  My son and I took a cross-country flight while my husband and the dog made the long drive in our car.

We took time off.  We traveled.  We spent time with family. Eventually, I found a job in Boston and we moved again.  We found a great apartment.  My job was interesting.  My son and husband were happy. Life was good.

Then, just before Christmas, I checked my voice-mail and heard the familiar click, click, click of the big wheel.  “Hi, this is Gary from Wheel of Fortune.  Please give me a call back.” For the next hour, I debated whether the message was an elaborate scam to obtain my personal information.  Surely, it couldn’t actually be a legitimate call from The Wheel of Fortune after all this time. But, in the end, my curiosity won out.

And that is how – last month – my husband and I found ourselves on a plane headed back to L.A. for the first time in more than a year.

Our episode airs this Monday, February 15.

To Be Continued . . .

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MoFo Wrap Up

The second half of September was taken up by a family vacation, followed by everyone in the family becoming ill in quick succession.  We’re unfortunately a little too good at sharing here in the VeggieLawyer household.  But before I left on vacation, I did put together posts on a few more MoFo prompts — foolishly thinking I would post them while traveling.  I’ll work on getting those posts published this month.  It’s finally cool enough to turn on my oven again, so I’ll also have a review of Vegan Casseroles by Julie Hasson.

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MoFo Day 10: Something Blue

Mid-August through mid-September is a tough time for my family because both my sister’s birthday and the anniversary of her death fall within that one month period.  This year, on what would have been her 32nd birthday, my Mom asked friends and family to celebrate by eating dessert first, something my sister often did “to save calories.”

Around here, you don’t need to tell us twice that it’s chocolate time.  I busted out Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and my sister’s favorite sauvignon blanc served in a glass from a wine tasting trip we took together, and set to work making a batch of fabulous espresso chocolate brownies.  I’m trying to cut down on store-bought vegan butter because of the connection between palm oil and the murder of orangutans, so I subbed oil for the butter called for in the recipe.  I think the substitution actually made the brownies more fudgey and delicious.


So there you have it. Day 10 of MoFo.  The brownies and the memories are bittersweet and the “something blue” is this blogger.


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MoFo Day 8: But I Could Never Go Vegan Cookbook Review

Today’s MofFo theme is “make a new vegan friend.”  Cookbooks count as friends, right?  They provide us with advice (on cooking and lifestyle), comfort us (with food) in tough times and the best ones make us feel like we know the author.  Today’s challenge was about making a living, breathing friend you say?  I can’t hear you because I’m busy snuggling up with my cookbook collection.

For today’s post, I’ll focus on one of my newest cookbooks: But I Could Never Go Vegan by Kristy Turner. Turner, a former fromagier, writes a popular vegan blog called Keepin’ It Kind.  But I Could Never Go Vegan is her first book and what a fun debut.  Each chapter is based upon an excuse for eating animal foods such as “But I Hate [Insert Vegetable Here]” and “But I Scream for Ice Cream,” and has recipes that debunk that excuse.  The cute concept alone makes the book enjoyable to flip through, but the beautiful pictures and inventive recipes add to the fun.  My only quibble is that some of the recipe intros lack color.  I would love to know a bit more about Turner’s life and how she came up with the various recipes.

At first glance, Turner’s recipes can seem a bit overwhelming.  Many have multiple components or require long cooking times.  However, as I actually cooked through the book, I found that there were a good mix of quick and easy recipe and more elaborate ones.  Though I’m not sure that this is a great book for a beginner, I do think it has a lot to offer for intermediate and advanced cooks of every persuasion.  The recipes are unique, well-thought-out and creative.

Here are a few of the recipes I tried.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream:  The first recipe I tried from this book was actually my least favorite.  Though there was nothing wrong with this ice cream, the almond extract called for in the recipe over-powered the peanut butter flavor.  I like my peanut butter ice cream to taste like peanut butter, so I would not make this recipe again as written.  I’m as shocked as you are that ice cream of any kind qualified as a least favorite for me.


BLT Tacos: These were so easy and so tasty. If you marinate the tempeh for the tempeh bacon ahead of time, the whole recipe comes together in less than 15 minutes.  Plus BLT as a taco is genius.  Everything should be taco-ized.


Sesame Sriracha Tofu Sandwich:  I’ll confess that I really don’t like Sriracha, which I think makes me a vegan blasphemer. I do like a good tofu sandwich though, so I made this with chili garlic sauce instead of Sriracha.  It’s basically sloppy joe meets Korean barbecue.  It was okay, but not my favorite.


Chocolate Stout Chili Fries:  This is a solid chili recipe served over oven fries, so it’s not even that unhealthy.  I topped mine with the sour cream from the book (good in recipes, but not so great on its own) and some guac.


And saving the best for last, Seitan Phyllo Purses.  These are little phyllo pouches stuffed with seitan and gravy and served on top of more gravy.  They were as delicious as they sound.

PicMonkey Collage

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Vegan Mofo Day 5: Best Sandwich Ever

IDI beet burger

Veg*ns these days have it easy.  Case in point: I’ve actually heard complaints that the “only” vegan item on the menu is a veggie burger.  Why, in my day, we walked uphill both ways to a restaurant only to be told that our choices were iceberg lettuce salad and a dry baked potato.  Going out to a place that served frozen Gardenburger patties was a special treat.

Now, most restaurants that serve veggie burgers make their patties in house.  I’ve found everything from bean patties, to grain patties, to tempeh patties — often with interesting topping choices like flavored aiolis or roasted veggies.  While it’s true that veggie burgers have become the standard veg*n item at restaurants, even an okay veggie burger is satisfying and beats the heck out of a “steamed vegetable plate.”  And I submit that a good veggie burger perfectly fits today’s best sandwich ever MoFo theme.

The burger above is the Bistro Beet Burger from Isa Does It, which I made for the first time today in honor of MoFo.  It’s a lentil, brown rice and beet patty that’s lightly seasoned and pan-fried.  Although the texture of the burger was spot-on, I found these patties to be a little bland topped just with ketchup, mustard and pickles.  But with the right toppings, these burgers could be a thing of beauty.  I’m thinking sauteed mushrooms and pesto mayo, or perhaps avocado and veggie bacon, or maybe onion rings, ranch dressing and buffalo sauce.  The possibilities are endless.


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Vegan Mofo Day 2: Loaf Is Not an Appetizing Word

The theme for day 2 of MoFo is “recreate a meal from your childhood.”  I was fortunate to be raised in a family that ate dinner together most nights and I move mountains to do the same for my son.  The two main differences between family dinners during my childhood and now are: 1) I grew up eating meat; and 2) unlike my son, I actually ate the food that was served to me.

My Mom had a short list of meals that she rotated through from Monday through Thursday, including chicken cutlets, pot roast and vegetable soup.  Fridays and Sundays were always pasta and my Dad often cooked on Saturdays.  As a small child, my favorite of Mom’s standard meals was meatloaf.  I think this was, in part, because meatloaf employs ground meat and seasoning and thus one can avoid the bones and veins that are uncomfortable reminders of who the meal once was.  (My vegetarian tendencies definitely manifested themselves early on).  That and the fact that meatloaf is a great vehicle for ketchup.

When I first gave up meat, I stuck to cooking simple meals like tofu stir-fry and frozen veggie burgers.  But as my cooking skills improved, the idea of recreating childhood favorites without the meat ick-factor began to appeal to me.  In my search for the perfect meatless loaf, I cooked my way through at least half-a-dozen recipes, finally settling on Dreena Burton’s Lentil Sunflower Pie as the best of the bunch.  Although I could have re-blogged that trusty Lentil Sunflower Pie, MoFo calls for just a little bit more.

Instead, I present the Lentil Mushroom Loaf from But I Could Never Go Vegan.  Honestly, this loaf recipe isn’t that much different than Dreena’s.  It has the same lentil base and similar seasonings.  The main differences are the use of mushrooms instead of Sunflower Seeds and a the addition of a ketchup glaze with a little extra kick from vinegar and powdered mustard.  Overall, the loaf had a good texture and held together nicely, but it definitely needed the glaze for flavor.  That was fine by me because I always drown my loaf in ketchup.

Verdict: If, like me, you grew up with ketchup-covered meatloaf, this Lentil Mushroom Loaf just may inspire some nosh-talgia for you.


Never Go Vegan Loaf


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Rise and Shine. It’s MoFo Time!

boston 1 boston 2 boston 3

Happy Vegan MoFo from beautiful Boston, Massachusetts!

This year, for the first time, the official MoFo website has suggested themes for each day of the month — starting with breakfast on day 1.  I’ve written tons of posts about my weekend breakfasts, but a Tuesday morning is no time to whip up pancakes or tofu scramble.  My standard breakfast is either a bowl of granola or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some fruit and coffee.  Since mornings can be pretty frantic getting my son dressed, getting the dog walked and getting out the door, I generally pack my breakfast to go and hop on the bus.  About 40 minutes and a few book chapters later, I arrive at South Station and take a stroll along the harbor to work.  (The pictures above are my walk to work, which is always a highlight of my day).  Sometimes, I stop off for an iced coffee from Au Bon Pain, but today I made myself a mocha smoothie before running for the bus.  The recipe was from 365 Vegan Smoothies and I added the optional banana to thicken.  Nothing earth shattering, but it was a nice treat made with simple ingredients — soy milk, coffee powder, cocoa, banana and agave.

mocha smoothie

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