Monthly Archives: December 2013

20 Days of Happiness Part 10 – Fruitcake Martinis

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.  For my next 11 posts, I’ll focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.

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MAY THE CALENDAR KEEP BRINGING HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU

I love pretty much everything about the Christmas season.  For the entire month of December, I’m basically an overgrown child watching endless Christmas specials, listening to carols on repeat and stuffing my face with Christmas cookies.  Since I’m technically an adult, I get to pair the whole experience with the perfect holiday cocktail.  The recipe for this Fruitcake Martini came from the December issue of VegNews, which has an entire cocktail feature.  It combines cake flavored vodka, pineapple rum, triple sec and cranberry juice for a festive boozy delight.  (Veggie Husband pronounced it “really, really good.”)

Unfortunately, due to a series of back-to-back-to-back colds, my December was lighter on cocktails then I would have liked.  This weekend was my first opportunity to sip one while gazing at our tree.  Fortunately, my family tradition is to leave the tree up until January 6 (the Epiphany), so I have another week to have my fruitcake and drink it too.

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Filed under Magazine Recipes, Recipes from Magazines

Cookbook Obsession: Review of Chloe’s Vegan Desserts

I’m taking a short  break from my Twenty Days of Happiness posting to bring you this review.

I purchased Chloe Coscarelli’s most recent book, Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, shortly after its release and I’ve been cooking through it steadily since then.

I’m a big fan of Coscarelli’s first cookbook, Chloe’s Kitchen, for it’s easy recipes and beautiful photos. Chloe’s Vegan Desserts delivers more of the same.  It includes chapters on Dessert for Breakfast, Cookies, Pies and Tarts, Cakes and Cupcakes, Spoon Desserts and Drinks.  The recipes are generally easy to make and call for common ingredients (no tofu or egg replacer here), which I think makes this a great book for new vegans and non-vegans.  I’ve shared recipes with omni friends whose children have food allergies and they have reported back with positive results.

The book includes a lot of baking standards such as apple pie, brownies and lemon bars and a few inventive new recipes (tiramisu pancakes, rum raisin rice pudding).  While those who already own a lot of baking books may find this one boring, I think even the basic recipes stand out for ease of preparation.  My main complaint is the consistent lack of instruction regarding how to tell when a baked good is done.  For example, a recipe will say that it bakes for 18-20 minutes, but leave you to guess as to what it should look like when fully baked (firm in the middle? brown around the edges with a soft middle?, etc.)

If you click on the “Chloes Desserts” tag, you can see my photos and reviews for the Chocolate Stout Cupcakes, Banana Cobbler and Lemon Raspberry Tart.  I’ve also made:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie — It’s a giant cookie baked in a pie crust.  What’s not to like?
  • Chocolate Raspberry Milkshake — This came out a little thin for my taste, though the flavor was good.
  • Cinnamon Mocha Cupcakes — These are my favorite cupcakes I have ever made.  Perfect crumb and perfect flavor profile.  I can see why Coscarelli won cupcake wars.
  • Chocolate Donuts — These are baked donuts that taste like chocolate cake — not as donut-y as I would have liked.  I assume that what I was missing was the fried taste of a regular donut.

donuts

  • Snowball Cookies — Whenever I bake, my husband requests chocolate chip cookies.  These chocolate chip shortbread cookies were a nice change of pace.  My son loved them.

shortbread

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20 Days of Happiness Part 9 – In Which I Pump You Up

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.  For my next 12 posts, I’ll focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.

BORN TO RUN (SLOWLY)

When I was in law school, one of my professors recommended that I read The Power of Now by Eckhardt Tolle, which is something of a how to guide about living in the present.  Following a short-lived dabble into mediation, the lasting take-away was that I have the ability to shut off the narration that’s almost constantly going on in my head.  With this understanding, came a realization about why I enjoy running so much.  When I run, I don’t think about my to-do list, or worry that I’m not a good enough mom or dwell on that negative comment from a co-worker.  I just run.  It is the time during my day when I am 100% present.

Although running is my exercise of choice, shorter-days mean less daylight hours for outdoor exercise.  For that reason, I have a stash of workout DVDs that I can do in the dark without risking being squished by an unobservant driver.  Here are a few of my favorites:

 Breathless body is a 55 minute Tabata style workout.  (I didn’t know what that is before I bought the DVD, so I’ll explain.  It’s 20 seconds of doing an exercise at your highest intensity, followed by 10 seconds of doing nothing.   You repeat this 8 times for each “Tabata.”)  This is a super tough cardio workout that leaves me feeling like a champ whenever I finish it.  (Equipment Required: None, but you’ll want something to mop up your sweat).

I’ve never actually watched The Biggest Loser, but I became a fan of Jillian Michaels’ workouts when they were available for free on the now defunct ExerciseTV OnDemand. Ripped in 30 is an interval workout DVD.  It has 4 30 minute workouts.  Each has a warm-up, cool-down and 3 intervals in a 3-2-1 format (3 minutes of strength, 2 minutes of cardio and 1 minute of abs).  I love that you get a complete workout in 30 minutes and I like that there are 4 levels, which keeps the workouts fresh and challenging.  (Equipment Required: Light and Heavy hand weights.)

I remember watching my mom do her Jane Fonda aerobics videos in the 80s, and The Firm takes me right back.  It has leotards, leg warmers and men with 80’s haircuts.  On top of that, it’s a really great workout that combines aerobics and toning into one 60 minute program.  All the leg lifts and donkey kicks make my legs feel like they are going to fall off — in a good way, of course.  (Equipment Required: Light and Heavy hand weights.  1 or 2 lb weights for the aerobic segments.  Also calls for a board and leg weights, but I just modify.)

Yoga has been keeping my back happy and preventing running injuries since 2004.  I like Denise Austin’s Yoga Body Burn because it has workouts as short as 20 minutes in the Vinyasa Flow style.  Denise manages to fit a pretty complete practice into 20 minutes, but there are 3 ten minute option add-ons (abs, legs and relax).  (Equipment Required: Yoga mat.)

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20 Days of Happiness Part 8 – Pumpkin Season

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.  For my next 13 posts, I’ll focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.

Pumpkin Ziti

Pumpkin Ziti

All Plated Up

All Plated Up

TECHNICALLY, IT’S FALL FOR 10 MORE DAYS

As a kid, fall was my favorite season.  It was a time when everything seemed fresh and new — new clothes, new books, new teachers, changing leaves and crisp fall weather.  Here in L.A., the early part of fall is often one of the hottest times of the year.  I’m more likely to be digging out my swimsuit than my winter jacket.  Fortunately, though, late fall often has weather that I find more seasonable and I seize the few days that drop below 60 as an opportunity to cram in all of my sweater wearing and fall cooking.

Nothing says autumn like pumpkin and this year I stocked up on both fresh and canned.  Since pumpkin is equally at home in sweet and savory recipes, it’s been making plenty of appearances on our plates.  The pumpkin ziti from Veganomicon (above) is one of my absolute favorite pumpkin recipes.  With a pumpkin cashew ricotta filling and sage crumb  topping, it’s creamy, crunchy, pumpkin-y and indistinguishable from its dairy equivalent.

Inspired by a menu item at a very veg-unfriendly diner, I also tried my hand at pumpkin stuffed french toast.  The filling is vegan cream cheese, pumpkin, agave and spices.  Although it was tasty, the filling was not firm enough for my liking, so the recipe needs some work before it is fit to share.  (I’m thinking that a pumpkin butter and cream cheese filling will strike the right balance between taste and texture — and maybe look less like grilled cheese).

Happy fall everyone!

Pumpkin Stuffed French Toast

Pumpkin Stuffed French Toast

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20 Days of Happiness Part 7 – Viva La Vegan Grocery – Santa Monica

I had not intended to have a long hiatus, but between work, family obligations and job hunting, I haven’t had the motivation to upload the photos I’ve been taking for my happiness series.  I finally sat down this weekend to organize my photos, so I’ll be able to get through at least part 10 without going missing.  Anyway, without further ado, here’s part 7.

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.  For my next 14 posts, I’ll focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.

Our Viva La Vegan Haul

Our Viva La Vegan Haul

A PERFECTLY VEGAN SATURDAY

Recently, my husband picked up “The Vegetarian Guide to Los Angeles,” a little brochure with listings for vegetarian and veg friendly restaurants in the LA area.  Flipping through, we realized that there were at least a dozen entirely vegan restaurants that we’ve never even visited, primarily because we never seem to venture east of Westwood.  We vowed to get out of our little rut and try something new.

With that background, you might expect that this post is about a fabulous new restaurant find.  While I’m proud to report that we spent 5 whole minutes pondering a drive to Hollywood to try a vegan creperie, more home-bodied intentions prevailed.  Instead, we started our day with brunch at Real Food Daily, Santa Monica (the very first vegan restaurant that we ever visited in LA — and probably the one that we’ve visited most frequently).  After stuffing ourselves full of tofu scramble, we were feeling more adventurous and headed all the way to Ocean Park Blvd. for grocery shopping.

Viva La Vegan  is an entirely vegan grocery store with its flagship store in Rancho Cucamonga.  The Santa Monica location opened this fall in an unassuming spot in a strip mall on Ocean Park Blvd.  When we first pulled up and I saw the tiny storefront, I expected to be disappointed.  Fortunately, in this case, first impressions were deceiving.  Although Viva La Vegan Santa Monica is tiny, indeed, they pack an awful lot into a little space.  We spent a good 30 minutes browsing through tightly packed rows of food and personal care items — everything from quinoa to vegan butterscotch chips to vegan shrimp to environmentally friendly hand soap.  It was a lot of fun to know that we could purchase anything in the store without reading labels.

Price-wise, Viva La Vegan is a little expensive.  It’s a good value for items I would normally order online (like vegan marshmallows– which were my absolute favorite item that we bought) because there’s no shipping and handling.  However, for items like veggie meats and dry goods, the prices were generally a little higher than Whole Foods.  Still, I’d gladly shop at Viva La Vegan again for the wonderful selection and because it’s nice to patronize a small, entirely vegan business.

Living in L.A., it’s easy to get caught up grumbling about the traffic or the smog — but Saturday reminded me that we’re awfully lucky to live in a place with so many vegan options that we can’t even find the time to try them all.

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