Month: December 2010

New Year’s Eve

We celebrated Christmas this morning with my parents.  Christmas brunch was brought to us by Vegan Brunch: Mushroom, Leek & White bean pie, gingerbread waffles, cinnamon rolls, tempeh bacon (ok, I bought that), and grapefruit mimosas. I didn’t follow the cinnamon roll recipe exactly, but they still came out okay.  Cinnamon rolls are a Christmas tradition and they are just as good in vegan form!

For Christmas I got a new yoga mat and the Neuaura Senegal Leopard pumps.

The weather was gorgeous today and I couldn’t pass up running outside in shorts and a t-shirt.  I was still really full from brunch, but it was so nice to be outside in 60 degree weather.

For dinner, my mom made a recipe from her newest cookbook: The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen.  It contains “nourishing, big-flavor recipes for cancer treatment and recovery.”  It’s not a vegan cookbook, but it has a lot of vegetarian recipes and does not use red meat.  We had Roasted Asparagus Pasta with White Beans and Thyme.  It had a lemon basil drizzle on it and was very flavorful.  She also made a salad.  She always makes a salad with dinner.  I wish I was that ambitious, but I hate chopping up more vegetables after I’ve just cooked a meal.

To celebrate the end of a very good year, H and I went to the Blue Monkey, recently voted to have Birmingham’s best martini.  We managed to snag a good corner seat, which was great for people watching.  Unfortunately around 11:30, a very drunk “Pat” came to the table next to us and we were concerned about her/him falling onto our table and burning us with her/his cigarette. (Yes, you can still smoke in bars in Alabama!!  It’s crazy and so gross.)  We both got the signature Blue Monkey martini.  They serve it in a martini glass and give you a second martini in a what looks like a wide test tube chilled over ice.  Our total bill: $10!  No wonder Pat was wasted with prices like that!  With 15 minutes left, they passed out champagne, hats, and noisemakers. 5..4..3..2…

A Cusp Online Shopping Headache

As previously mentioned, the lovely coat H bought me for Christmas was a tad too big. I returned it to Saks, but was unable to repurchase the coat because H gave me his MasterCard to buy the coat. His account was frozen after he tried to buy the first coat, because MasterCard found it suspicious that a video game loving nerd would not be buying something from Saks Fifth Avenue. I had every intention of repurchasing it from Saks until Google Shopping informed me that the jacket was $193.20, which is $27 cheaper than Saks. Both stores offered free regular shipping.

I liked Cusp. It’s a super cute boutique with awesome designers and great stylists. Just look at this outfit they put together: Elizabeth & James striped blazer and floral print blouse.

The blouse is silk & the jacket is $425, so I searched for some alternatives. Banana Republic has a striped blazer for half that much (and half as cute), which would look nice Lucky’s cotton blouse.

The best thing about Cusp is that they sell vegan handbags by Matt & Nat. Cusp & Stella McCartney made me realize that vegan can be chic. I ordered the jacket on Christmas Eve with standard shipping thinking that it would most definitely arrive by Thursday, December 30. I planned on wearing the jacket New Years Eve & we are flying to Birmingham on Thursday night. However, my email confirmation had the estimated delivery date as January 6, 2011!!! How is this package being delivered? The pony express?

I online chatted with a representative on Monday to see about upgrading to expedited shipping. As I only needed it by Thursday, two-day shipping seemed like the obvious solution. The representative told me it would cost $10 additional dollars for two business day shipping. Perfect. But then she said it would arrive on Friday. Huh? Math must not be a strong suit for these fashionistas. I asked how two business day shipping meant my package would arrive in four business days. She said it might arrive on Wednesday, but she had to account for processing time. On what planet is it acceptable to take 1-3 days to process an expedited order?

I read Cusp’s shipping policy online and it’s intentionally vague. No where does it state that processing an order can take days. There is even a noon cut off time for expedited shipping orders. Why does a company need my order by 12:00 pm on Monday to ship it by Wednesday?! H ordered the first jacket from Saks on Saturday and it arrived on Wednesday and he didn’t even pay for upgraded shipping. That is how online shopping should work.

To make matters worse, Cusp charged me for free standard shipping and the $10 upgrade, so now it was the same price as Saks. I was keeping my fingers crossed that the package would be shipped on Monday. It was not. I was getting anxious this morning, especially because they did not respond to any of my emails complaining about their borderline deceptive shipping information and the fact that I was charged for free shipping when I upgraded my shipping method. I got on chat again this afternoon to ask if they could tell me when the item would be shipped. After looking at my order (and probably the 3 emails I sent), the representative told me they would overnight the package tomorrow at no cost. I’ll have the jacket by Thursday.

I doubt I’ll shop online at Cusp after this experience. I have a lot of experience with online shopping and I’ve never heard of delaying expedited shipping by 1-3 business days. I’ll visit their store to see what M&N bags they have on sale, but I won’t shop online until they improve their shipping policy.

UPDATE: The incompetence continues! Cusp printed a shipping label on Wednesday, but didn’t actually give the package to FedEx. Because the office is closed tomorrow and I really wanted to wear the jacket for NYE, I asked Cusp to send it to my parents’ house. It really shouldn’t have been a problem because they still had the package in their possession. Except they gave the package to FedEx and THEN asked to reroute it, which adds 24 hours to delivery. My jacket is set to arrive in Birmingham on Monday. Of course, I’ll be back in Illinois on Sunday.

The Vegan Table

We received several nice gifts at our housewarming brunch, which I was not expecting and it kind of makes me feel bad for all the times I showed up at a housewarming party with just a bottle of wine.  One of the fabulous gifts we received was The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.  I have her other book, The Joy of Vegan Baking (also a gift), which is hit or miss.  This cookbook looks divine, so I am hoping for more consistent recipes.  It’s focus is entertaining, but the first chapter has some recipes for two.

Tonight’s two course dinner was Kale with Sesame Miso Dressing and Saffron Spiked Moroccan Stew over couscous.  I have never cooked kale this way before and I can’t believe how soft it was.  I steamed it for 5 minutes and threw it in cold water.   The dressing is phenomenal!  This was my favorite of the two recipes, but I’m expecting the leftover stew to be even more flavorful tomorrow.

I had a hard time finding saffron.  Fortunately, H is covering the Barrington hospital this week and was able to stop at a grocery store over there.  The closer you get to the city, the more likely you are to find “exotic” spices like saffron.  I don’t think he was happy with the price ($15 on sale), but I think it was worth it.  The stew is a good blend of spiciness and sweetness.  I’m looking forward to having it for lunch tomorrow after the flavors meld.

So far, so good.  I’m excited to try some more recipes from The Vegan Table and I can’t wait to host another party.

Dessert, of course, was another gingerbread martini!

Outback’s Gingerbread Martini – Veganized

I’ve never been to Outback, but when I was searching for a gingerbread martini recipe a couple of weeks ago, I saw a lot of buzz about the one at Outback.  Apparently, it is fricking amazing.  Alas, it has ice cream, whipped cream and Bailey’s Irish Cream, so I will not be making a trip to Outback to try one.  However, here is my veganized version of the holiday cocktail:

  • 1/2 cup soy vanilla ice cream semi-melted
  • 1 shot of vodka
  • 1 shot of Kahlua
  • 1/2 shot of whiskey
  • 1/2 shot of gingerbread syrup
  • garnish with rice whip and cinnamon (and/or a gingerbread cookie)

I mixed the alcohol and syrup in a shaker and stirred in the ice cream.  Poured it into a martini glass; topped it with rice whip and sprinkled some cinnamon over it.  The verdict: it is fricking amazing!  I can’t wait until tomorrow to have another one.

I used SoyaToo Rice Whip Cream, which is the first time I’ve tried this product.  I’ve had the Soy Whip before and did not like it.  It has a weird aftertaste, but Rice Whip is very light with no aftertaste.  It tastes like whip cream.

To counterbalance the high calorie martini, we had another dinner from Appetite for Reduction: Buffalo Tempeh and Mac & Trees.  It was one of the better cheese sauces I’ve made and it’s low in fat (no margarine in the recipe).  It called for brown rice pasta, so it felt a little lighter.  The tempeh is spicy!  There is half of a cup of hot sauce in the  recipe –  she is not fooling around on this.  The spiciness of the tempeh goes well with the mac and cheez.

Merry Christmas

  • 8:30 – Workout #1: Weights & abs
  • 10:00 – Dim sum in Chinatown (Phoenix Restaurant): veggie rolls, veggie dumplings and sesame buns
  • 12:00 – nap
  • 1:00 – in room movie (The Town)
  • 3:10 – Workout #2: 2 mile run squeezed in before the 4:00 check out.
  • 4:00 – hang out in the hotel lobby reading, playing wii and drinking pinot grigio
  • 5:30 – Dinner at Vermillion for a 5 course vegetarian meal with cocktails & wine
  • 7:00 – back in the hotel lobby until it’s time to take the train home
  • 8:30 – train back to Woodstock.  So sad.

Christmas in the City

Merry Christmas Eve!

H & I are spending Christmas in Chicago, so we opened presents this morning to avoid lugging them down on the train. H got me the A+O zebra faux fur jacket! It’s gorgeous & soft & too big! 😦

Here’s H opening his universal remote while wearing his new pig neck pillow.

After opening present, H & I ran (literally) to the train station and made it just in time. We are staying at Hotel Palomar with a special deal that included a $25 credit at the restaurant, so we checked out Sable for lunch. I had the wild mushroom-brown rice burger sans cheese with salad and to drink I had a champagne cocktail with a strawberry-paprika syrup. It was all so good.

After lunch, I ran (literally) to Saks to exchange my Christmas jacket. Unfortunately, the store didn’t have the item so I just returned it and ordered a cheaper one from Cusp.

Then we went to see White Christmas, which I really enjoyed but Mr. Scrooge H did not.

Now we’re on our way to Trump Tower for drinks & apps.

Peanut Butter Cookies

I woke up at 5:30 this morning to make peanut butter cookies and an eggnog cheesecake.  I really should not be baking before noon and most definitely not before I finish a cup of coffee.  I was making a double batch of peanut butter crisscross cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar for Christmas gifts.  It is one of my favorite recipes from the book.  However, I missed a section of the recipe and didn’t add the sugar, molasses  & vanilla.  Even as I was adding the flour, I was thinking to myself “it doesn’t seem right to add the flour before the sugar.”  Eventually all the ingredients made their way into the mixing bowl, but the texture was a little off.  If I was giving these as gifts, I would need to make another batch.

Meanwhile, I made the eggnog cheesecake from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.   It’s not quite as good as the pumpkin chocolate swirl cheesecake from Thanksgiving, but it’s still really tasty.  I think vegan cheesecake is better than regular cheesecake and yet the whole time I’m eating vegan cheesecake,  I think about how it tastes just like the real thing.   I can’t figure that out.  Maybe its a combination of the fat and guilt that makes eating real cheesecake not as enjoyable.   I brought the cheesecake into work for dessert after our office lunch and it was a big success.  I’ll take a picture this weekend.

UPDATE:  Unfortunately, it appears that one ingredient is separating itself from the cake, so I guess it’s a dessert you need to eat in one day.  No one wants to see pictures of an oozing cheesecake.

The second batch of cookies came out a little better.  My mom always made these for Christmas and she added a chocolate kiss in the center.  I saw a vegan version with chocolate ganache, but I didn’t think that would package well.  Instead, I added chocolate chips to half of them.

Broccoli-Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs + Top Chef

I made this soup a couple of years ago and it was really good.  And memorable, because as I was driving home thinking of what I should buy at the grocery store, I thought of this soup.  I called H from the store and had him look up the ingredients.  The fresh herbs are a nice addition.  The pureed potatoes give it a creamy texture without any cream (it’s not really as yellow as it looks in the pictures).


Top Chef.  Why do I like this show?  It’s almost always about meat and there are often shots of animal carcasses.  Even worse, the chefs can be condescending towards vegetarian food.  Currently the All Stars season is on and we’ve been catching up on the first few episodes tonight.  In the second episode, a breakfast buffet challenge put two teams up against each other: Team Brontosaurus vs. Team Tyrannosaurus.  Of course, the chef who was allowed to pick which one she wanted went for the t-rex.  She did not realize the dinosaur was a carnivore and the team was only allowed meat and meat products (gross, but ha!).  I rooted for Team Brontosaurus.  They had some weird things on their breakfast menu (gnocchi?  gazpacho? really?), but they pulled it off.  Vegetables, fruit & grains for the win!

Vegan Yum Yum’s Pan Fried Tofu

One of the best apps I have on my iPhone is Vegan Yum Yum.   I never heard of the blog before, but the app is free, so I had to try it.  The recipes are really good.   She hasn’t posted since January, which is sad, but I still have lots of recipes to try out.  The app is great because it’s easy to find a recipe if I’m out and decide to stop at the store.  I don’t have to go back home and look through my cookbooks.  It also has a shopping list that you can check off to make sure you have all the items.  I am notorious for getting home and realizing that I am missing one very crucial ingredient.

Last night I made Pan Fried Tofu, Kale, and Stir-Fried Noodles.  My pictures don’t look as good as the photos on the blog.  I finally bought a recharger for my camera battery, so hopefully my photos will improve.  Right now they are all crappy iPhone pictures.  She says to press the tofu for 15 minutes.  I think that’s too short.  An hour would have been better.  Besides that, it is an easy and yummy recipe.  “This is some tasty tofu” is what H said.