Monday, April 05, 2021

Burning Question Buns & Brunch

Happy SpringTime! 


This weekend we had a very sweet little brunch-in-the-backyard with my parents - "just us chickens," as we say in our family. We aren't Easter people, per se, but we are definitely "any chance to get together" people! And so a brunch was convened! 

I made a nice little spread, and my mom brought over some of her cute spring-y decor items. I know it seems like a ton of food - ha ha - but my nephew was also supposed to come and couldn't at the last minute.


I made five glasses of freshly-squeezed orange juice with oranges from our very own tree! It was so good. Our orange trees have lots of oranges on them, but you have to be patient! I usually just wait until they fall off the tree, and save those until there are enough for some OJ!

Roasted Asparagus!! Asparagus is a must-have, of course! I got two big bunches at the farmers market, and Googled "how to roast asparagus." I think maaaaybe I've roasted asparagus before but, geez, I'm in love!! It was super easy, took about 12 minutes, and they were delicious!!! Definitely my new go-to method.

I also made two kinds of breakfast sausage links: Field Roast and Beyond Meat. None of us had ever tried the Beyond Meat links before. We all agreed that we preferred the look and texture of the Beyond Meat links, but the Field Roast links had better flavor. So, I'll probably stick with Field Roast, because, in the end, flavor wins.

And fruit salad, cuz ya gotta have it! 


Burning Question Buns! 

I am a true fan of Hot Cross Buns, but the cross never really reflects my belief system. Delicious fruity buns certainly do though! So, Mr. VE&T had the excellent idea to put big question marks on the buns!! YES. At first, we called them Hot Question Buns, and Agnosti-Buns, but then Mr VE&T came up with BURNING QUESTION BUNS. Excellent. Finally, I feel seen by my holiday baked goods.

  

My plate of deliciousness. Don't be fooled, I totes went back for more. 
I have these cute little Peter Rabbit napkins left over from a baby shower - which was co-incidentally the very last gathering we held before covid changed everything! Perfectly appropriate for Easter-y celebrations! 



My mom even brought over a little Smurfette dressed up as the Easter Bunny, back from my days as a smurf-collecting kiddo. I used to be SERIOUSLY into Smurfs. Ha ha. See my cute plate with a bunny on it? I have four of them, and in each one, the bunny is holding something different - a strawberry, a carrot... they're so cute. I literally use them once a year. ha ha. 

We had a really long and lovely visit together with my parents. My parents are both vaccinated now, and I even got to sit next to my mom on our little patio sofa. Ahh. Such a sweet and tender joy. We talked and talked about a million things, laughed, ate, and relaxed. It was all quite sweet. You know how it is... we just don't take anything for granted these days. 


The jasmine in our backyard is going gangbusters. At night, it smells especially amazing. 


Shaggy Chunko is such a good boy and we have been walking them at a place where the grass is tall and green right now. Shaggy loves to run through the tall grass and stop for a nibble or two. Also, see the little white flowers - they're everywhere right now, and they're so sweet and delicate.

I hope you are able to enjoy springtime, and that you are finding some joy and support in all the greenery and blossoms and blue skies. 


-- Also! I have a funny question: I have at least 7-8 blog posts that I pretty much entirely wrote last year and never published... mostly because our scanner was busted and so I couldn't add doodles to my posts and that was enough to never finish them. Should I still publish them? I also have some overdue book reviews to write, so I will pledge to do that! 

 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

NoRooz Mobarak!


NoRooz Mobarak!!


Happy Persian New Year! Happy Springtime!  Nothing like my favorite holiday of the whole year to pull me back to the blogosphere... NoRooz is celebrated on the vernal equinox, and last year, it arrived just about 10 days after we had closed down our yoga studio and the fear and newness of Covid restrictions were at a peak. With a heavy heart, I emailed everyone and cancelled our NoRooz party. We all agreed. It was, as you know, the first of many cancellations! 

I was so wiped out last year, I didn't make a single special dish, and I didn't even set up my Haft Sin table. This year, I was feeling better - and I so grew my sprouts from lentils and set up my beautiful table (and moved it outside for our gathering)... just this act made me feel so happy and festive. It's amazing how traditions take on so much meaning over the years. 


me showing off the table of food and explaining the dishes to everyone

This year, one year later, we bravely decided to gather a small group for a backyard celebration. I can't even tell you how much this meant to me - the joy of anticipation and planning, the joy of cooking for people I love, the joy of togetherness! Having to cancel last year's gathering made this year's downsized event all the sweeter. 

There are some very special people who I love and who are so important to me that I didn't get to invite this year. Our backyard isn't tiny, but 8 is about a covid-safe max. I really look forward to next year - when hopefully I can return to invite people with wild abandon!!! 

The weather just *barely* cooperated - we had a few sprinkles, and some wind gusts, but by later in the afternoon the sun was out. A perfect first day of spring! 


Kuku Sabzi

Oh my goodness, these guys are SO DELICIOUS. Seriously, everyone needs to know about this recipe - such incredibly interesting and lovely flavors.

Traditionally, kuku sabzi is an eggy omelette, mixed with bajillions of fresh herbs. Over the years I've veganized it lots of ways. My recipe can be found here - this year I made an important change: I left out the water!! This was a big improvement as far as cooking time and texture. Also, I cooked them in my muffin tin with silicon muffin cups, which made it MUCH easier to get them out of the muffin tray (after cooling for a few minutes). This is definitely the way to do it! 

NoRooz dishes are often brimming with herbs (parsley, cilantro, chives, spinach, fenugreek, dill, leeks...), which are not only delicious and nutritious, but symbolize all the green growth of springtime! The meaning and beauty behind the symbols of NoRooz is so beautiful and life-affirming. This is why it's such a beloved holiday for me.


Cheese Platters

This year I made a *concerted effort* not to over-commit with this little gathering... and actually I was successful, because I had plenty of time to get everything ready before my guests arrived. However, that did mean that I had to somewhat compromise on my usual NoRooz tendencies - I used store-bought bread and store-bought vegan cheese!! GASP. My loving guests forgave me.

In the interest of keeping everything as covid-safe as possible, I made the cheese into little single-serve nuggets. I bought Treeline Cheese (so good!) and used my melon baller to make mini-balls. Then I rolled these in a mix of parsley, mint, and chopped walnuts. They were great! 


Shirazi Salad

Just the basics and they can't be beat! Lucky me to live in the land of amazing produce - I zipped out of the house at 7:30am and nabbed these *perfect* organic tomatoes and cucumbers straight from the farmers market. What a blessing. I added some red onion, and a simple dressing made with olive oil, pomegranate molasses, red wine vinegar, and lime juice. You can't tell here, but this was a HUGE salad. 

If Mr. VE&T had a top-5 foods list, "tomato-cucumber salad" would be near the top. He loves salads like this, and he single-handled polished off all the salad that was left at the end of the day! 


Aash-e Restheh

Oooooh, this soup is so good and so packed with flavors. One of the great things about Persian New Year is that the food is actually quite healthy - so you aren't left feeling blotto afterwards. This amazing and traditional soup is super-simple to veganize by using veggie broth (that's all it takes!). You can find my recipe here. It's got beans and lentils and spinach and beets and noodles and loads of herbs, and it's absolutely delicious. This is one of the dishes that I most look forward to every year. It takes a good 2-3 hours to make, but since I'm always in the kitchen doing a vast array of NoRooz cooking, it's no trouble at all. I love the aroma as the whole house starts to smell like herbs and turmeric and onions... 

Garnish for the soup

Speaking of which... this is the *amazing* garnish that goes with Aash-e Reshteh: it's onions sliced verrrrrrrry thinly, cooked down and cooked down and cooked down, and then with dried turmeric and dried mint mixed in, and then cooked some more. Oooooooh it's just an incredible flavor BLAST.

I always make a lot so that my beloved friend Jasmine and I don't have to fight over it. Ha ha. 


Sabzi Polow

I'm sure you've heard of Persian rice, and especially of Tahdig - the magical crunchy crust at the bottom of the pot. Let's just say that Persians seriously figured out how to make rice!!! It's more complicated than "throw it in a pot!," but the results are so totes worth it. Sabzi Polow is mixed full of herbs (with just the bottom level left herb-free). I wished I had gotten a *little* bit more of a golden glow on my tahdig, but all in all, I was pleased with this year's polow! There's always a heart-stopping moment-of-truth when you flip your rice pot over onto the serving platter - hoping for a good golden crust and no burnt bits! It's very exciting! You can find my recipe here


Eggplant Pickle by my cousin Bruce! 

Wow! How special to receive a very lovely jar of homemade Eggplant pickle made by my cousin Bruce up in Portland. I don't think I've ever actually celebrated NoRooz with Brucie (maybe someday???) - but Bruce and his sister Eliza and their parents lived in Iran for several years before the Iranian Revolution, and they all still speak some Farsi and have many beloved Iranian friends. That side of my family were the first people to introduce me to Iranian culture. 

This pickle had special instructions "don't use before the vernal equinox!" - I love that! I was very dutiful, and saved it for NoRooz. I love trying pickles of the world - and this was a great condiment with our meal! Very special. Thank you Bruce! 


Limeade!

I made two quick-and-easy pitchers of Limeade: using a simple syrup made with coconut sugar (thus the lovely dark amber color), fizzy water, and lime juice (from our lime trees) - added in some fresh mint leaves and lime slices for extra pizzazz. That super fancy and ornate pitcher came from my dad's grandmother in North Carolina. She had very ornate taste! I don't get to pull it out all that often, for obvious reasons... so it's fun to get it out and put it to use! 


My plate full of goooooooodness

Ahhhhh. So many delicious and magical and beloved flavors all on one plate. 
I even busted out my cloth napkins, which were sadly rumpled after one whole year of no entertaining.
ha ha


Sweeties Platter!!

Of course you need lots of sweeties for Persian New Year, and it's impossible to pick just one! This year I practiced incredible self-restraint by only making four sweeties. Amazing, right?

Here you have:

Sohan As-Ali - a wonderful almond brittle candy made with rosewater and saffron and then sprinkled with crushed pistachios. Oh my goodness I love these candies so much. Over the years I have gotten better and better at making these - I used to experience so much stress and anxiety every time!! ha ha. If you've ever tried your hand at candy-making, I think you probably know what I mean. I've figured out the drill and also finally bought a digital candy thermometer, which definitely helps!  Just writing about these lil babies made me get up and go eat one of the few that we have leftover. Ahhh. 

Tut - the little oval ones are marzipans made with almonds, icing sugar, and rosewater, then rolled in sugar and with a little pistachio "stem" poked in at one end. They are meant to resemble mulberries. These candies are so extremely simple to make (if you used pre-ground almond meal, you wouldn't even need a food processor), and they are extremely delicious. Not too sweet, but entirely satisfying. 

Nane-NokhodchiThe little golden cookies are made with chickpea flour, cardamom, and rosewater. Mine were a little "spready" this year, but the flavor was delicious. I think these ones are especially good the next day! 


Mini-Key Lime Pies!

Wait! Mini-Key Pies don't sound very Persian!!!??? You're right! However, key lime pie is a traditional part of *our family's celebration*, because my dad's birthday is today (March 21st). Key Lime Pie is one of his very favorite treats. Instead of making one beautiful pie like I usually do, I went for single serve, covid-safe, mini pies!

(bonus Shaggy Chunko sighting in the background. He follows me everywhere! He could literally be in every picture I took if I just zoomed out a little. ha ha)


Birthday Boy! and my Momsie!

Today my dad is 84 years old, and just got his second vaccine this week. Wooo! My mom is all vaxxed up and once my dad's 2-week post-vaccination wait is over, I'm gonna give that guy a big ol' hug!! 

All in all, it was an absolutely wonderful and perfect NoRooz - a sweet vibe with everyone feeling so grateful to be together and to have an opportunity to recognize the new year and appreciate the fresh energy and beauty of spring time. I hope you're doing okay out there, and that you can find a little way to mark the arrival of spring. <3 


p.s. One good thing about entertaining outside is that no one can see that your kitchen looks like a BOMB went off. ha ha ha Oh Lordy, it took me a good few hours to do all the dishes and get the kitchen back in working order after all of that! 



 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Introducing Shaggy Chunko!!

Shaggy Chunko!

A couple months ago, we adopted a new dog! If you follow me on Instagram, I'm sure you're already up to date on #shaggychunko - but I thought this newest family member deserved a post all of his own here on the blog.

We got Mr. Chunko just about a month after Stevie died... and honestly we weren't really planning on another dog. We thought we would let our whole pack move to the Great Beyond and then we would have time for travel and global adventures. Then Covid came along and it was immediately clear that we wouldn't be traveling anywhere for quite some time. 

Buddies

Also, our little old Snoopy was SO sad and SO lost without Stevie and Dottie. He is 17, and has quite a bit of dementia. His disposition is still 100% joy, but he can quickly become disoriented and not know what's going on or where he is. He really relied on Stevie and Dottie and orbited around them. We knew that, but it was extra sad to see him on his own. 

The first few days after Shaggy Chunks came home were a little unsteady, but now these two are always next to one another - it's SO sweet and Snoopy is so much happier.  Shaggy Chunko is a born snuggler and insists on being near Snoopy. It's so adorable.


Every single Morning

We got Chunko from a listing on Nextdoor. For the last 18 months or so, he had belonged to an elderly couple with a lot of medical problems, and they had both recently passed away (within 10 days of one another). Their daughter was looking for a home for Shaggy. We met them at the park - with face masks and proper social distancing of course! - and lo and behold, we came home with a new dog! From the picture online, I thought Shaggy Chunko was going to be bit bigger and more athletic... but no. He is actually shorter than Snoopy (whose new nickname is Silky Svelte-o), and built like a little tank, and is extremely UNathletic! ha ha. When he "runs" his whole body weeble-wobbles around. Mr. VE&T pretty much took one look at this silly little guy and fell in love. 



We've learned some things about Shaggy Chunko:

- he is EXTREMELY snuggly and is particularly obsessed with me.
- he is 10 years old, not 7 years old
- he really hadn't been walked at all and was very overweight and totally out of shape
- he's really smart, but totally untrained
- we are at least his fourth home in his life... he came from the central valley, where he had already been adopted once, then was brought to the shelter here, where he was adopted from the people before us
- he had to have a big dental surgery and get 3 teeth out and 2 root canals. Poor guy - but he is a lot happier now
- we also learned that he had been de-barked (so barbaric!) somewhere along the line, and that he has scarring in his airway. This may require follow-up at some point. 

he is shaped like a cylindrical little pig, but has a pointy little snout.


Unfortunately our little Mr. Chunko recently injured his knee on a very low-intensity dog walk, and it isn't getting better quickly. We're still waiting to find out if he needs surgery. Oh dear. We were hoping for a break from high-maintenance pet ownership after shepherding Stevie and Dottie through their end-of-life experiences.  But, of course, Mr. Chunks will get whatever he needs. Most of all we want him to be healthy and happy as soon as possible. 


Straight up Chillin'

Shaggy Chunko is dozing on my lap as I type up this post. He is SUCH a sweet little being. Gentle and pensive... but with a dose of terrier SPUNK that is still emerging. I think the situation he came from before us was not ideal, and after about 2 months with us, he is still unwinding into this new environment. After having all our other pets for SO many years and knowing them each so deeply and intimately, Shaggy Chunko still feels like someone we are getting to know. I can't wait!




Monday, April 27, 2020

Vegan Shoe Review: Jambu Caymen Sandals

Hello Friends!

Gentle Readers, I had big plans for monthly posts full of good stuff - food and fun and adventures... and then You Know What happened. Right after my last post, I received a lovely pair of spring sandals from Jambu Footwear to review and share on my blog. We were planning our annual trip down to Palm Springs to watch the tennis... and I thought - "I will save them and get some cute pictures in the desert with my sandals on!" But then the tournament got cancelled, and our trip got cancelled, and life was turned upside down. Honestly, it just didn't feel right to write about shoes. 

But we are all adapting and life goes on and yesterday was Mr. VE&T's birthday. So, I decided to put on my cute jumper and my cute blue Caymen Sandals and have a day of it! Two of our friends came over and we had a long-distance "stay apart" (opposite of a "get together"). We sat far apart in the driveway and had Aperol Spritzes in carefully-sanitized glasses. It was SO fun to be together and feel safe, to see their faces, to laugh and connect. Instead of pictures of me feeling stylish in Palm Springs, you get pictures of me feeling stylish in the driveway. Ha ha. 


Caymen Sandals, in Indigo

Jambu has a lot of cute spring vegan shoes for women this year, but I chose the Caymen Sandals to review because I didn't have any shoes like this in my life! They have an ankle strap, but actually it's a really an easy velcro that just looks like a buckle. I'm definitely a fan of easy on-off. I also I really like the coir styling around the base of the shoe... so summery and reminiscent of espadrilles. They come in indigo (blue), blush (a pale pink/ivory), and black. I ordered size 9 and found them to be true to size. 

They have a memory foam sole that is smooshy and comfy, but they aren't designed with massive arch support in mind. 


Our Front Yard... can you see Footie in the Window? 


I'm definitely looking forward to wearing these sandals all summer long. These are fashion, fun, kickin' around and feelin'-styley shoes... not hiking sandals! That's actually what I really love about them. So many of the sandals I have are extremely functional and not extremely cute. They're great for long walks or day hikes... but feel too clunky when I want to wear a skirt or just feel a little less sporty. These Caymen sandals feel simple and feminine and will go great with skirts and summery dresses - even if Mr. VE&T and Footie are the only ones who see me!


After our friends took off, I went to check on my veggie garden. Mr VE&T got this cute picture when one of our neighbors called out and said hello. I'm grateful for these little interactions! It was fun to go my garden chores in my pretty sandals - added a little emotional perk. Maybe I should dress up a little more often during all this shelter in place! (except that my cute jumpsuit was quickly covered in white footie furs after he cuddled with me --> less fancy. ha ha) 



COUPON CODE! 
Just for a couple more days!

Maybe you need some summer sandals to spice up your driveway time this summer? 

Use the coupon code VEGANEATS to get 20% off any shoes at Jambu.com - good through Thursday April 30th. Just a reminder that Jambu has lots of cute vegan shoes and vegan sandals, but not all their shoes are vegan. So many sure you're in the vegan section of the site before you start shopping!