Friday, October 20, 2017

Autumn Harvest & Lots of Canning! (& cookbook winner!)

Autumn really is the season of harvesting and bounty! These days, the produce at the farmers market is starting to shift... the nectarines are winding down, but there are still lots of tomatoes and peppers and lots of other goodies to appreciate. I've been slaving away in the kitchen -- lots of preserving and canning and good ol' "setting up" to be done. 

first up: Apples, Apples, and a few more Apples 

We've got a wonderful apple tree out in the backyard and I love it so much. But I won't lie, I also feel burdened by it sometimes. So many apples! And a crushing sense of responsibility to never let a good apple go to waste! I usually make at least one big batch of applesauce... however, I don't actually eat all that much applesauce, so I still have quite a bit left over from last year. 

Perhaps one of these years I will actually buy myself a dehydrator so I can make some dried apples. Or maybe an apple press so that I might make apple juice? This year, in a determined effort to avoid making more applesauce, I read several recipes online about how to make apple juice. They seemed a little confusing - like, basically, they sounded a lot like recipes for making applesauce. But I am good at following recipes, so I forged ahead bravely... and what did I end up with? A LOT OF APPLESAUCE. Ha ha ha. Oh well, at least it's delicious applesauce. And now I know what to give everyone for Christmas! 

Roasted Bell Peppers

I guess I have become a bit of a food snob -- whenever possible, I really prefer to eat local and organic produce. But, in winter time this is a problem because there aren't any more bell peppers or corn or other good stuff. So, one of my coping strategies is to roast and freeze a bunch of bell peppers when they are at the peak of their excellence. I made this helpful diagram for you in case you want to roast some peppers too. It's not too late! 


Beautiful, delicious, wonderful Concord Grapes

All my life, my grandparents had a wonderful, bountiful garden. Their garden was a place for family parties, celebrations, daily visits, activities and projects, games and play. It is a place that I love so much, and where I have only ever felt loved. 

All along one long fence of their garden is a wall of Concord Grapes. They are just so delicious. We would pick them and eat them and spit out the seeds. My grandma would make grape juice. They were a constant presence, year after year. After my grandparents died, my aunt and her partner moved into their home... and happily, they have maintained the garden with great care, and this year they had an especially abundant grape harvest. And, lucky me, they were gracious enough to share with me! 

Processing Grapes:
boiling, draining through the sieve, all canned up

I think we picked 10 pounds of grapes! I made several jars of grape juice (way more than pictured!), and a batch of grape jelly. Mr. Vegan Eats and Treats loves Concord Grape Jelly more than any other flavor. So it felt good to make a big batch of jelly for him. I used a low sugar recipe for the jelly and the flavor of the grapes is so strong and so amazing!!

more garden bounty

While we were having a grand old time picking grapes and enjoying the garden, my aunt gave me SO MUCH more amazing produce: a very big box of totally incredible tomatoes, three varieties of figs (!!), a beautiful sweet pepper, and a few semi-spicy peppers. So fun and beautiful and tasty... and it's all so extra sentimental and meaningful because it comes from this special garden that I have loved and enjoyed for all my life. 

Last but not least, Tomatoes! 

Tomatoes from my garden were canned up a while back, but my lovely farmer friends Jane and JP gave me a big box of "seconds," tomatoes with little blemishes that make them unfit for wholesale. Their tomatoes are just like manna from heaven, so incredible -- they're dry-farmed organic tomatoes. This means they end up a little on the small side, relatively low moisture, and each little tomato is packed full with the flavor of 100 tomatoes. 

We ate a lot of these tomatoes just fresh, in salads and as snacks. But of course I also did some good canning - five big huge jars of pasta sauce, and four little jars of Tomato Sesame Jam. So much deliciousness awaits!!

(possibly one of the weirdest doodles I've ever drawn for my blog!!) 

How about you? Have you been canning or freezing any of this autumn bounty?? 

___________    Cookbook Winner!    ___________

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway for a copy of Celine Steen's Latest book: 
Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking
The random number generator selected comment #11: CCarter!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Jambu Wingate Vegan Boot: Product Review

For most of my life, I was a devoted fan of Summer and only Summer. I pretty much had no appetite for any of those other rotten seasons. Gradually, I made my peace with Spring, because (obviously) Springtime is beautiful and full of life and magic. But it took a lot longer for me to come around to Autumn and Winter... As you may know, we had a long intense drought that went on for about 5 years here in California. During that time, I bought a business, my dad had some major health problems, and the whole thing got to be pretty exhausting. I kept thinking "I just really want a cold and rainy day to bundle up and feel cozy and sit around the house and rest." And it never came! (well, eventually it did, but it took 5 years!). 

That whole experience really changed something in me. Now I look forward to Autumn: shorter days and longer nights, scarves and warm caps, cozy afternoons, and socks and cozy shoes! 
Cozy Cozy Cozy!!

JSport Wingate Boot

Speaking of coziness!!! I received these boots from Jambu to review -- these are the Wingate Boots, by Jambu's sister brand JSport. They are super-cute, super-comfy, AND super-cozy! Currently, my only problem is that it's not cooling off here at all and I am impatient to wear these boots every day. In honor of taking pictures for this blog post, I got all bundled up and pretended it was cold out, but actually it was about 80 F. ha ha ha! Fake news! 

I'm ready to get cozy!

cute boots and cute Stevie Wonder

I really love these boots! First of all, they are very comfortable to wear: they basically feel like sneakers once they're on your feet. They're flexible on your feet, and they also have a very smooshy memory foam insole, which feels lovely. The soles have good traction and grip. The shoes come on and off with a really easy zipper on the inside of ankle, but the laces are also functional, so you can make the shoes as snug as you want. You can also adjust the tightness of the buckle around the faux fur on the top of the boot. (see the detail picture below)

I have pretty big calves and haven't really ever found a calf boot that works for me. These are great because they just come up to the mid-calf and don't get in the way of my "fancy" calves (ha ha).

  a few detail shots from the Wingate Boots

1. The top of the boot is lined with a super fuzzy faux fur, but the rest of the boot is lined with an equally-compelling, but more low-profile faux fur. I love the little tag that proudly proclaims "FAUX FUR."

2. The strap that goes around the top of the boot is adjustable if you want to make them more or less snug. As are the laces. In the boot in the back, you can see the zipper that allows the boots to come one and off easily.

3. Just to see some of the materials involved: quilted exterior fabric, rubberized around the bottom of the shoe and especially at the toe area.

4. Good rubberized soles. Not super deep tread on these, but it feels like a good grip.

the doggies love doing high-fives!

As you can see, these boots are comfy for leaning over, squatting and goofing around with my dogs. They aren't stiff and they don't limit my range of motion

Sizing: I usually wear a size 9, but always trending up to a 9.5. As you see above, these boots are lined with cozy faux fur, and I knew I'd want to wear them with socks, so I ordered mine in 9.5. This was definitely the right choice for me. Jambu calls them "weather-ready," which means they are designed for wear in wintry conditions like rain, sleet & snow. If these Wingate Boots aren't quite your jam, Jambu has several super cute vegan shoes for women, including quite a few other good Autumn - Winter shoes and boots. 

After all this talk about coziness, I must confess that I live in California... so my idea of "autumn" and "winter" is certainly different than it is for my friends in New York or Estonia! I'm not sure I'd be so enthusiastic about that! Even though it's still tomatoes and sunshine around here, I have a trip to New York City coming up next month - to visit one of my favorite besties who recently moved there. It had better be autumny for that trip, because then I can wear these super cozies the whole time! Fingers crossed! And for now, I'll carry on enjoying our balmy autumn... I'm sure rain and darkness will be here soon enough.

Coupon Code for You! 
As you know, I recently became a brand ambassador for Jambu, and as such, I received these boots for free to review. I'll have one more style to review in a few more weeks. 

You can use the coupon code VEGAN17 for 20% off 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking // Cookbook Review & Giveaway

Spoiler alert: this is a glowing review! 

When I first went vegan, there weren't very many vegan cookbooks. I only had one, and it was kinda funky. Instead, I used vegetarian cookbooks and just left out the cheese, or tried to convert the recipes myself... with very mixed results. So I still get a little thrill every time a new vegan cookbook is published. I just kinda can't believe it! 

Now that I've been doing this vegan thing for 17+ years, though, I'm also pretty experienced in the kitchen. I often meet people who are interested in becoming vegan, or who've only just started eating vegan, and now there are so many great cookbooks for people like that -- which is so wonderful. But, as for me, I love when a vegan cookbook isn't afraid to cater to experienced home cooks... and if you're in the same boat, I think you will love this new cookbook: Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking, by Celine Steen of the beautiful blog Have Cake Will Travel. 

I've already made 7 things from this book, and we loved all of them. The recipes truly live up to the title - strong, impressive and memorable flavors. Nothing meek or forgettable here! The recipes also don't shy away from specialty ingredients (harissa, gochujang, dried shiitake powder, various special spices)-- but the book also offers recipes for many of them, in case you don't have access at your local market. Personally, I find this all very exciting! Veganism is already a bit of a limitation, and it's such a thrill to explore new flavors and cuisines and feel my vegan horizons expanding.

Not a book for people who are scared of specialty ingredients. 
Definitely a book for people who don't need another recipe for oatmeal or avocado toast!

Teriyaki Tempeh Tacos

The first recipe I made was these delicious Teriyaki Tempeh Tacos. My homemade tortillas were a bit funky and rustic, but make no mistake -- these tacos were just wonderful! Even though there were several components, they came together pretty quickly. First is a gently seasoned batch of rice. Next up is a batch of tempeh, sauteed with homemade Teriyaki Sauce. And then lots of veggies cooked lightly, but still crispy -- including highly desirable water chestnuts and snow peas. Ha ha. Mr. VE&T *loves* water chestnuts and snow peas, neither of which I cook with all that often. So he was very happy! Then the tacos were garnished with Kimchi, sriracha sauce, and a few other goodies. So many flavors! 

Smoky Kale and Chickpeas with Miso Peanut Drizzle

Hello, Miso Peanut Drizzle, nice to meet you!! This Smoky Kale and Chickpeas with Miso Peanut Drizzle is a super quick and nutritious meal to put together, with very satisfying flavors and textures -- so much more than you would expect from something so easy to prepare. Instead of the roasted sweet potato suggested by the recipe, I used my final butternut squash from last winter's garden! The Miso Peanut Sauce really is special, and calls for red miso, for extra umami oomph!

umami oomph!!!

Gochujang Kimchi Sausages

I love homemade seitan, but I guess I am kinda lazy, because I really don't make it very often. And yet, when I saw a recipe for Gochujang Kimchi Sausages -- seitan sausages with pureed kimchi in the batter?! Yes, please. These are spicy little sneakers, but not it's too much. They're just bursting with flavor - the ingredients list reads like a Who's Who of umami highrollers. So much great stuff packed in!

Gochujang Kimchi Bowl

I used some of my magical seitan sausages in this lovely Gochujang Kimchi Bowl. Once you've made the sausages, this is a super speedy recipe -- veggies, a hearty dose of kimchi, and some flavor-punch garnishes. I made a big batch and had it for lunches for several days. Just looking at it is making me want to eat it all over again!!

Soy Pomegranate- Glazed Baby Eggplants with Dukkah

Mr. VE&T is a card-carrying member of the eggplant fan club... so I am always looking for tasty eggplant recipes to make for him. This recipe for Soy Pomegranate- Glazed Baby Eggplants with Dukkah is a bit more like an appetizer... so I made a size of tofu cubes to go with it. Because we are two people who love to eat, I bought several extra mini-eggplants. Even if you just make a regular batch, I recommend making a bit extra of the marinade. It's really tasty and it adds all the flavor to the dish. What a great dinner. 

I also really liked this dukkah mix. Dukkah is just so good and so easy. Why isn't it more of a household ingredient? Why did it take me so long to know about dukkah? Who was keeping the precious secret from the world? I used the leftover mix on my morning avocado toast and sprinkled on hummus for lunch.

Fresh Corn Tacos with Salsita Verde

Alas, as I am writing this post, it's just after midnight... and is officially the first day of autumn. I actually really love Autumn, but looking at this picture is making me wish I could just have a little more time with summer. These Fresh Corn Tacos with Salsita Verde were absolutely amazing. Pretty much brought down the house. The corn, onion, and bell pepper are perfectly seasoned - spunky but not overpowering. And the fresh tomatillo salsa takes seconds to prepare and is totally dynamite! They're served with slices of avocado, roasted pepitas, and cilantro... SO PERFECT. I have some corn that I froze in the peak of corn season, so I think I will have to make these again pronto.

fiesty flavors!

Miso Sweet Cookies

Last, but not least, the desserts chapter in this book deserves special mention. SO many enticing recipes to explore! Of course, I am a cookie monster, and when I saw a recipe for Miso Sweet Cookies (cookies with miso!?), I got straight to work. I actually made a double batch - I gave half to a special friend of mine who had a long flight ahead of her, and I brought the rest to class for my yoga students. I like to bake them treats from time to time.

These cookies are so special and unique. The recipe calls for a whole 1/4 cup miso - but the saltiness isn't overwhelming at all -- just fantastic. In addition to the miso, the cookies have oats, dark sugars (Sucanat and Turbinado), nuts of choice (I used sliced almonds)... and the super magic ingredients: fresh orange juice and orange zest. What a combo!!

flavors that pack a punch!!
*this doodle was Mr. VE&T's idea!*

Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking also has an amazing and inspiring "Staples" chapter -- full of exciting spice mixes, toppings, sauces, pickles, and condiments that you can make yourself and open up a whole new world of flavors in your home cooking!!

The cookbook is very beautiful, with gorgeous color pictures, and a layout that is very enticing and easy to read. The recipes are labeled "gluten-free" "in a hurry" "soy-free", and so on... so you can get a sense of which recipes suit your needs for any particular meal.

Here are just a few of the many recipes I'd still like to make, just to give you a sense of some of the great range of flavors and ideas in this innovative book! 

Red Curry vegetables
Harissa Sprouts and Chickpeas
Indonesian Inspired Rice Pancakes
Summer Plate with Pickled Pepper Cream
Grilled Pineapple with Tahini Lime Nuts
Orange Creamsicle Tartlets with Ginger Pears

*** GIVEAWAY! ***

If you are a fan of flavor, I've got great news! The publishers of this fine book, Page Street Publishing, are allowing me to offer a giveaway! To enter, please leave a comment on this post and tell me about one of your favorite big flavors, or secret power ingredients, or really, just say anything. And be sure to leave your email address or another way to contact you, or I will select a different winner! 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Jambu Jackie Vegan Shoes for Women

It's time for another Jambu footwear review! I've recently signed on as a Jambu brand ambassador - because I am such a fan of their sporty, comfortable, stylish vegan shoes for women.

 like a stylish stretchy super sock hugging your foot!

These are my new Jackie shoes... and I LOVE THEM. I swear, I can't stop wearing them... they have replaced my beloved flip flops! They're effortless to slip in and out of, but once they're on, they have a comfortably snug / secure fit. Can you see how cool they are? They feel like a super neat stretchy knit sock with a tennis shoe structure around it. So comfy and unique!

dusty, sweaty legs in the hot sun and feet in super comfy shoes! 

Aesthetically, I really like the pretty pattern on the knot part of the Jackie shoe and the overall look of the shoe - sporty but not garish. Functionally, I like that there is a drawstring and I can make them feel a bit more snug and secure. I also like that they are quite breathable, and are comfortably worn with socks or without socks. Even on a warm day, they don't feel stuffy and my feet don't feel overheated.

this is actually how I took these pictures,
standing on a little stone wall on the edge of a cliff! 
all that yoga's gotta be good for something! ha ha

In fact, I wore these shoes for our special anniversary outing recently! It was our five year anniversary and so we decided to do something special - we rented electric bikes to ride along the coast of Big Sur. This is such a stunning area, and the road is usually a bustling highway. However, the heavy rains last winter caused a huge landslide to the South and destroyed a major bridge to the north -- leaving a very serene stretch of road which in between. The hills are big and the landscape is rugged, so electric bikes were awesome!

in love with my new shoe buddies

The only downside - our anniversary turned out to be the hottest day over the year. It was 107 F!! Perfect for a totally-exposed bike ride in the middle of the day! My poor Mr. VE&T actually got heatstroke!  What an adventure. Nonetheless we had a totally great time, because it was just so special to see that wonderful place in a new way. And my shoes were perfect for a casually active day - a little hiking, biking, then poking around on our way back home. As you can see, I took lots of pictures of my new shoes with all the beauty of Big Sur in the background!

off to teach the yogaz!!

I also really like that these shoes look cute with pants, shorts, or yoga tights... makes them so versatile! I think these shoes are great for everyday activity, walking around, feeling snazzy and sporty, fun bike rides, and casual wear. They've become my new favorite for slipping on and dashing out the door to go teach or get to the farmers market.

my new shoes make me feel super sporty and festive! 

I selected steel gray, but Jackie shoes also come in navy and in black. I find these shoes to be perfectly true to size and comfortable for my somewhat wide feet. The stretchy knit means they have quite bit of leeway for narrow or wider feet.

If you'd like to get some Jackie shoes with me, or try any of Jambu's other vegan shoes for women, use the coupon code VEGAN17 for a 20% discount! Woot!