luck be a lady…

…and she is very much being a lady to me.

First of all there’s the whole HotScienceGuy thing. We’ve been dating for less than a month, but it’s hard to believe that it hasn’t been longer. And this past weekend, where we spent nearly forty-eight hours together, has only strengthened our connection. (And yes, we did spend some of that time away from my apartment and in public, though we got there early and left before the lovely ladies of Seabirds showed up – though I did get to try Frankenstand’s new menu item, which is soooo very good.)

Second, once again I have won Janiece’s Free Shit Friday, this time the prize being her amazing Awesome Apple Butter of Awesomeness. Yippee! This is the fourth time I’ve won Janiece’s homemade goodies (previous prizes have been strawberry jam, raspberry jam and blackberry jam), but, while I have loved every jar I’ve been sent, none of her delectable jams can compare with her apple butter. This is, perhaps, the perfect note upon which to end my reign as Yummy Goodies Winning Queen. I think I shall have to have to fold up my Free Shit Friday entry sheet and put it away in the attic so that others may have a chance.

Third, last night I received an email from Quarrygirl. Turns out that my entry in her Mendocino Farms Pre-Opening Party Contest/Sweepstakes/Whichever had been randomly chosen, so HotScienceGuy and I will be attending tonight, on World Vegan Day (HSG is vegetarian). WooHoo!

Oh, Lady Luck, thank you for being so kind to me. It is very much appreciated.

the unholy experiment…

Due to a heat wave, very little walking was done this weekend. I walked to CuteFilmNerd’s place Saturday morning (he lives a little over a mile from me), with the intent of us walking to a nearish-by bagel place we’ve walked to before, but the heat did me in during that initial short walk, so we ended up driving to a little vegetarian-friendly cafe for lunch (which I love and he just likes – it’s mostly vegetarian except for the use of tuna and are very vegan friendly). Halfway through our meal an attractive, tallish gentleman walked in and set up within my line of sight. There was something very familiar about him, though it was awhile before I saw his face, which confirmed my initial impression: the lovely and talented John Fugelsang had entered the cafe. Which was very interesting because, not only am I a fan of him from his Friday stints on The Stephanie Miller Show, but CuteFilmNerd and I were scheduled to attend an evening of comedy and spoken word that he was hosting that night. I thought about saying hi, but by that time he was obviously on the phone and I didn’t want to disturb him, though I did sneak a photo:

So off we went, me to my place and CFN to his. Upon checking my Facebook page, I noticed that the evening’s event venue had changed…to my neighborhood. Yay! Although I wondered aloud (aka on the Facebook event page) if Mr. Fugelsang were staking me. His response? A private message asking why I hadn’t said hi in the cafe. Aaawww! I explained my not wanting to disturb his phone conversation and me being a little on the shy side, but promised to say hi that evening. And I did. A very nice, intelligent and way too pretty and funny for one person is John Fugelsang. And I managed to sneak a few photos of the very fun event with the myTouch rather than either of my cameras as I didn’t want to disturb the performers:

The host with the most, John Fugelsang.
The host with the most, John Fugelsang.

Comedian/writer Richard Chassler.
Comedian/writer Richard Chassler.

Kelly Carlin, daughter of the inestimable George Carlin and an excellent writer/performer in her own right.
Kelly Carlin, daughter of the inestimable George Carlin and an excellent writer/performer in her own right.

John Fugelsang and Emmy Award Winner Voice Deity Jim Ward (whom I'm familiar with from Stephanie Miller Show).
John Fugelsang and Emmy Award Winner Voice Deity Jim Ward (whom I'm familiar with from Stephanie Miller Show).

Spoken Word Artist Lisa Thayer.
Spoken Word Artist Lisa Thayer.

(These were the best photos. Pictures of all of the performers can be found here.)

However, Saturday night’s event wasn’t the only unholy experiment happening in the World of Carol. Early Monday morning I was invited to a sooper sekrit vegan tasting event put on by the amazing Doomie’s Home Cookin’, which was a first for me, as I’m never invited to sooper sekrit tasting events of any kind.

I’ve been a fan of Doomie’s food for quite a while and, like most of their fans, was very sad when an electrical fire in the kitchen shuttered the restaurant for a little over two months. They’ve been working hard to get it up and running again and many in the vegan community stepped up to help them out, including yours truly. I wasn’t able to do a ton of work, but I was able to help out a couple of times with cleaning and curtains and such and, to reward those who helped out, the fine proprietors invited us to partake their yummy comfort food. They were actually training the new staff on the plating of the food, with the intent of going through the entire menu, but after several hours and many courses of family style service, we cried uncle, as our tummies could hold no more. It was another fun evening of good food and good company, with many of us officially meeting for the first time, though we’d seen each other in passing throughout the cleaning. I’m so glad I didn’t have to do overtime last night after all.

Amazing food and amazing company. And too full tummies.
Amazing food and amazing company. And too full tummies.

How was that an unholy experiment, you ask? Because trying to stuff that much food into the human stomach, no matter how elastic or how few bites per course taken, must surely be the work of Satan. I think I’m still full.

gratitudinal december – cooking talent

I am grateful I can cook.

Yesterday I spent a good portion of the day baking cupcakes, making frosting and whipping up a shepherd’s pie (all vegan, of course). The goodies were for the birthday party of my friend RockerChick. Various people tasted my wares and made yummy noises, unable to believe the veganness of it all. Put a big ol’ smile on my face, let me tell you.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made vegan food for the consumption of omnivores. It won’t be the last. I really love introducing people to good, hearty vegan food. Though I still sometimes fall down on my vegan eating (I had a cupcake that RockerChick baked, which I know wasn’t vegan), I still really enjoy vegan cooking. I love the challenge of figuring out how to take traditional comfort food and make it entirely my own with no animal products. I frequently do internet research or use the cookbooks that CuteFilmNerd has given to me to give me ideas of how to proceed. Despite the strong prevalence of meat on Food Network, I’m still addicted to it because I can usually be inspired to try something new, like an olive salad inspired by a Bobby Flay episode about muffulettas.

I moan about how my creativity seems to have left me, but that’s not entirely true. I’ve simply found a new canvas for it. A canvas that makes other people smile and make yummy noises (especially CuteFilmNerd). And that makes me happy.

baking for haiti…

Hi! How’re you doing? Great, I hope! You look fantastic.

I know, I know, it’s been such a long time since we’ve spent any real time together, but you know how things are, right? People get busy and next thing you know weeks and months have passed and you haven’t had a deep, meaningful conversation with the blog readers in your life. I’m really sorry about that, honest. But, well, I guess I just haven’t been in much of a place to catch up.

Truth is, I’m still really not, but I kinda wanted to tell you about this cool thing I’m going to be doing in a couple of weeks. And if you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, I hope you’ll stop by during this cool thing, because it’s really not about me. It’s about people who need help. A lot of help.

Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti - Proceeds Go to Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) - January 31, 2010
Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti - Proceeds Go to Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) - January 31, 2010

I’m going to have a few things there for sale, things that got rave reviews when I brought them to various holiday parties.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treats; Peanut Butter Cookies; Chocolate Ginger Cookies
Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treats; Peanut Butter Cookies; Chocolate Ginger Cookies

Hey, guess what? If you’re in L.A. and you want to help out, you can totally do that too, even if you don’t bake. VeganPr0n has all the details. If you’re not in L.A., that’s cool. There are other vegan bake sales across the country.

Oh, man, I gotta run. 😦 It was great seeing you again, even if it was only for a minute. And you really do look fantastic – I love that hair color on you.

Hopefully I’ll see you on the 31st!

doing’ some self-pimpin’

Recently I mentioned the food blog of my good friend Polarbeast. I’ve been friends with Polarbeast (aka Dave) and his lovely wife Bianca since we were theater geek upstarts in our high school days. In other words, a pretty long time (I’ll leave it to you to guess the number of years — and be nice).

Polarbeast has got a mean yet coaxing way with words and certainly doesn’t need the likes of me to bring on the word pwnage. Despite that, he has asked, should I be in the mood, to contribute a guest restaurant review. I came close once before, taking notes and photos at the late, lamented Vegan Spot, but I never got around to actually writing the damned thing.

Finally I reviewed Café Flourish and I didn’t even have to take notes. Everything about my favorite sandwich — the BLTA — is imprinted indelibly on my taste-buds.

Go on and check out both my entry and, if you’re in L.A., the restaurant. Also, take a long, meandering stroll through Dining in L.A. Good words about good food are always fun to read.

camera looty goodness…

Back in December, a bunch of things were stolen from CuteFilmNerd’s car. I didn’t mention it in my entry, but one of the things that was stolen was my messenger bag with my digital camera in it. While it wasn’t the most technologically advanced camera, it took nice enough photos and I’ve been missing it ever since, forced to use my crappy camera phone if something visual tickled my fancy.

The beginning of July marked the birthday of The Awesome Michelle, who received an awesome camera from her awesome husband.

(There’s a lot of awesome going on on West (By G-d) Virginia. Who knew?)

Michelle realized that four digital cameras were two too many, so she offered the UCF folks two cameras to a good home. Timorously I raised my hand and thusly I was rewarded with a camera. Yay!

So last Friday I was home – it was one of my Fridays off – and I was puttering around my very hot apartment, trying to get some household chores done without incurring heat stroke. I heard the doorbell ring, but I was in my bedroom in the back, with hands full of stuff. Plus I never like to answer the door when I’m not expecting someone to come over. So I didn’t answer the doorbell.

About five minutes later I went to the front door and opened it, then looked downward to see a box sitting on the doormat.

“Wha-?” my mind said. Packages are rarely received because UPS and FedEx can’t get in unless someone is home and willing to answer the gate buzzer, which rings through to my roommate’s landline. His phone didn’t ring, so I was unaware of package delivery.

I picked it up, hoping there was no ticking or buzzing (because aren’t the only people who send packages through the USPS Unibomber types [says the woman who recently shipped something on CuteFilmNerd’s behalf via USPS]), then I looked at the return address. It was from West (by G-d) Virginia! WooHoo!

And here’s what I found upon opening the box (sorry – these photos were taken with my camera phone – I haven’t figured out how to take a picture of a camera with the camera I’m taking a picture of):
image002a1 image003a1 image004a1

On Friday I played around with it a little, but didn’t really take photos. I had too much to get done. Saturday, on the other hand, I was a photo-taking maniac:

July 18-19_2009 001
Handsome CuteFilmNerd enjoying a basil lemonade at Cafe Flourish.

July 18-19_2009 013
A yummy vegan reuben sandwich from Cafe Flourish. Some say it’s the best vegan reuben sandwich in Los Angeles. It’s CuteFilmNerd’s favorite sandwich. I think it’s good, but not phenomenal – the avocado competes too much with the thousand island dressing and the texture of the tempeh doesn’t quite work for me. However, the accompanying quinoa tabbouleh is amazing – fantastically fresh ingredients that leap on your tongue and do a happy little flavor dance.

July 18-19_2009 029
Vegan ice cream at Sccops near Los Angeles City College. The place is a bit of a hipster hangout, but the ice cream is fantastic, with interesting flavor combinations. Plus they always make four vegan flavors each day. Whether there will be any left when you get there is another matter.

And, of course, I took photos of the boys:

July 18-19_2009 015
Matisse was pretty laid back about the whole thing.

July 18-19_2009 036a
Edison was a little tougher, but I finally got a good photo.

July 18-19_2009 018
Unfortunately, BJ decided he wasn’t in the mood. The best I could get was this somewhat blurry photo. I’ll get him yet, though, I swear…

The new camera also has a panoramic option, as can be evidenced by my attempted panorama of my crowded bedroom.

And, of course, I had to test the video option on the camera, which, while not stunning (it’s not a camcorder, after all), was much better than my previous camera’s, as can be seen in these wholly uninteresting videos:

On the whole, I’d have to say this camera thing is a rousing success. A big thanks to The Awesome Michelle!

little something…

This may be my favorite recipe quote ever:

Tarragon, as a herb, is slightly haughty but at least he swings both ways. He’s quite happy to be the consummate romantic, whispering sweet nothings into the ear of Madam Strawberry, but he’s just as pleased to rub his savory bits all over Mr. Asparagus, who honestly thought he was just coming over to watch a movie. Silly asparagus. It’s never just a movie.

From Strawberry, Asparagus and Pine Nut Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette at Choosy Beggars.

oh my…oh my!

‘Round about my birthday day I received an interesting email with an interesting enclosure:

bonbonbar-gift-certificate-carol-elaine

My first thought was, Wow! That’s a hell of a lot of chocolate! My second, third and fourth thoughts were of gratitude to a rocking bunch of ladies. I love a good piece of chocolate and I’d heard from Tania and Michelle that this was most excellent chocolate. Even better, the chocolatier was headquartered in Los Angeles. Yay!

It was awhile before I could use the gift certificate, though. I was hesitant to order online because 1) the weather has been unpredictable and I didn’t want to receive a bunch of melted chocolate due to a heat wave (which we haven’t really had, though I never know from day to day if it’s going to be a cold day or hot day) and 2) my apartment building isn’t ideal for receiving packages.

I considered going to one of the farmers’ markets which Nina lists on her site, and CuteFilmNerd and I finally went to the one in Brentwood. I found Nina’s booth and chatted with her for a little bit while CuteFilmNerd went off to play with some Lhaso Apsos at a rescue booth. She is a sweet person, with a personality that was still bubbly after late nights and long hours preparing and shipping Father’s Day candy. We got there pretty late, so she was out of several of her varieties, including the malt candy bar, which I was especially interested in trying. I bought about $40 of candy, though, some of which I gave to CuteFilmNerd and my roommate, as a small token of appreciation for lugging my ass around town.

I kept most of it for myself, though, as it was part of a birthday present from such a wonderful group of women.

image001Taken after I’d eaten most of the candy

Yesterday I polished off the two peanut butter bars I’d kept:

bonbonpbbar

Most excellent indeed, with little surprise bursts of honey and strawberry jam. My first bite, which included the strawberry jam, actually made me laugh.

image007

The caramels are smooth, sweet and buttery with just a hint of smokiness and kosher salt. I still have some of those left, but I don’t know how much longer they’ll last. Considering I’m not a huge caramel fan (I find most of them far too sweet), these are perfect.

But for me the pièce de résistance were the Scotch candy bars:

image006

Oh. My. Ganache and caramel enrobed in dark chocolate using high quality ingredients would be enough to get me all Pavlovian, but the ganache was laced with Talisker 1992 Distillers Edition Single Malt Scotch. I’m not a scotch drinker, but it took the candy to an incredible level, giving it depth. Even more incredible – sea salt sprinkled on top, giving it a wonderful finish. I ate the second (and last) of them just a few moments ago, and am looking sadly at the empty wrapper, wishing there were more.

Well, I still have about $60 left on the gift certificate – I may have to stock up on Scotch candy bars.

Thank you again, UCF ladies. And, again- wow.

constant cravings…

I’m a bit of a fan of Food Network. There have been days (though not many) when I’ve parked myself in front of the TV and kept it on Food Network damned near all day. Once my roommate, while sitting and watching one of the challenges, turned to me and asked, “How do you not eat seventeen times a day?”

“I just eat before watching.” It really does help.

As a consequence, however, I find myself wanting to cook more often. I’ll see a recipe that inspires me and decide that I need to do something similar RIGHT NOW! If I don’t, I’ll feel slightly uneasy until that itch is scratched.

As a result, at the beginning of January I made my first homemade soup: a hearty vegetable/mushroom soup.

While I know that stock is easy to make, I decided to use the boxed vegetable stock, as I was too impatient to wait for hours. I wanted to taste my inaugural soup within two hours. And I did. I’ve got to say – it was damned good. Lots of veggies, three kinds of mushrooms, lots of herbs and aromatics (including an entire head of garlic – half sauteed, half crushed into the soup as it simmered for an hour – and a big ol’ onion) and a lot of freshly ground black pepper. It was one of the best things I’ve ever made. And the recipe was wholly my own.

The next day I experimented with combining eggs with potatoes in a kind of frittata. It’s something HSTeacher has made for me in the past (quite well, I might add) and it just sounded good. So in with the garlic and onion and black pepper and cheese and such. Once again, most yummy.

An episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay – in which muffaletta was the featured dish – made me crave an olive salad sandwich. Days later I finally purchased the desired ingredients (my own recipe again) and chopped and mixed to my heart’s delight. By itself the salad was heavenly. Perhaps not quite muffaletta grade, as I used mayo and mustard (which I understand is a huge no-no), but still excellent, with a nice balance of creamy (mayo) and salty (three kinds of olives) and tart (mustard and chopped dill pickle). I even added my personal cooking staples: onions and garlic, this time so lightly sauteed in extra virgin olive oil (not EVOO, so shut up, Rachel Ray) so as to be barely cooked. Yummy cubed.

Unfortunately, in a sandwich with toasted 12 grain bread, red leaf lettuce, tomato and provolone? Not so good. Quite bland, in fact. The tomato was a bit on the watery side and that overpowered the salad in a way I didn’t think was possible. And the lettuce added absolutely nothing. Next time? Just the salad, please.

I wonder what I’ll be raring to cook next…

i want a moon pie!

I miss marshmallows.

I haven’t had one on purpose since I went and did this veggie thing over ten years ago, because marshmallows have gelatin. Since gelatin is derived from animal bones (most likely cow bones), me no can have.

And don’t tell me about kosher marshmallows either – they’ve got fish gelatin. So, again, not so good for the vegetarian shiksa.

*sigh*

Maybe it’s just time for a Fluffernutter – guaranteed gelatin free!

‘Course, it’s got all that sugar and trans fat and calories and crap…

*heavy sigh*

Guess I’ll just stick to my Vitamineral Green.

*shudder*