mac & cheese mondays – earth balance in a box! (yellow)

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okay, i’m going to kick off mac & cheese mondays with kind of a controversial one: the new earth balance mac & cheese in a box. people have some serious love-it-or-hate-it opinions about this stuff, with a rather impressive third team comprised of eh-what’s-the-big-deal-about-its. personally, i was extremely friggin’ excited when i heard that earth balance was planning to release not one, but two different flavors of boxed mac & cheese.

i’ve been vegan for nearly 10 years now, but in the pregan days, i was seriously into that lovely blue box of kraft macaroni & cheese. i had some in the house at all times, and i really did miss it after i went vegan. because i had been raised on “the stovetop kind” (as opposed to the oven-baked with breadcrumbs kind), it was also sort of hard for me to find satisfying vegan recipes at first; it seemed like everything out there was the creamy beige oven-baked kind. i wanted bright colors! i wanted tangy! eventually, at long last, i found The Greatest Homemade Vegan Mac & Cheese Of Absolutely All Time, but i’ll save that reminder for another monday. aaaanyway, the long and short of it is that i was pretty excited to hear about yellow mac & cheese in a box.

EB cheddar

for awhile i just kept seeing pictures of everyone else’s EB mac & cheese adventures, but i could never find it locally myself. the ppk thread about it grew and grew (and it became clear that teams were forming), and i started to get rather impatient. in the end, i gave up on finding it in town, and i ordered three boxes from rabbit food grocery. (i actually ordered both flavors, but i haven’t tried the white cheddar yet, so i’m going to save that review for next week.)

in the ppk thread there was a lot of advice about tinkering with the ingredients (use less margarine! use unsweetened milk! use neither of these things at all, just add a little water!), and to be honest i was a little panicky when it came time to try it. i was afraid of two things: (1) that i would accidentally ruin my new precious, rendering it inedible, and/or (2) that i would be all excited over nothing, because it would be, sadly, gross.

so, i ended up just following the directions on the box exactly (using the amount of EB they call for, and using the milk i happened to have in the house, which was “light plain” soymilk). it got nice and creamy after stirring for awhile, and i was really excited to try it. as i started dishing it into my bowl, i came to the embarrassing realization that i was about to eat an entire box of mac & cheese. that’s normal, right? one box is one serving? oy.

EB cheddar prepared

(yes, that is the contents of an entire box in that there bowl.)

with great trepidation i tried my first bite. i was nervous about it being weirdly sweet (as some had reported) or just “blah” (as others had reported), but i’m happy to say that i am Super! Easy! To Please! because i thought it was pretty ding-dang good. it reminded me quite a bit of the old blue box, in a warm and fuzzy nostalgic way, and the more i ate it the more i liked it. there is definitely something about that perfect little noodle shape! it’s funny, because it’s definitely different from my new all-time favorite (stay tuned for another monday!), but it still hit the spot, and i would definitely be willing to keep a box or two around for immediate comfort food needs. i have one more box of the yellow in the pantry, but i’m going to make the white cheddar flavor next to see how it compares. i shall report back!

vegan mofo is here!

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all right, buckle up, because after a billion years of Not Blogging, briefly interrupted by a Super Sad Post and then a continuation of Not Blogging… i’m about to be in your face pretty much every day for the next month. get excited! it’s mofo time!

this year i decided to try something new (albeit at the very last minute), and i’ve gotten slightly organized about this whole deal. in years past i’ve just taken the “blog about food, whatever strikes yer fancy” route every day, but this year i’m trying the different-topic-each-day-of-the-week shtick. here’s what i’m planning:

mac & cheese mondays – because duh. i’m obsessed with mac & cheese, i have Opinions, and also all the cool kids are doing it.

hometown tuesdays – this one doesn’t use alliteration because the only T word i could think of was “townie,” and that made it sound like i live in a vacation town on the east coast, which i most certainly do not. so anyhow, on tuesdays i’ll be featuring some delicious milwaukee offerings.

wanderlust wednesdays – my favorite tasty out-of-town noms! i’ll try to resist the urge to make all of my wednesday posts about austin, but i’m not making any promises.

throwback thursdays – i have this thing where i fall deeply in love with a product, and then the powers that be snatch it away from me, which always leads to a lot of whining and complaining from yours truly. i thought i’d tap into that pain for my thursday theme, where i will wax nostalgic about something i’ve lost, but then also hopefully talk about the awesome thing i eat instead now. we’ll see how that goes.

four favorites fridays – this ‘four favorites’ idea is something i’ve been kicking around for ages now, and i figure mofo is a good time to try it out. this month i’ll be focusing on food (of course), but after vegan mofo ends, i hope to keep this as a regular post feature.

saturday snacks – i like snacks. on saturdays i’ll tell you about what i’ve been shoving in my face, snack-wise.

sunday sharing – making dessert for other people is one of my favorite forms of vegan outreach. telling people about the dessert i make for other people is another one, apparently.

so there you have it! an attempt at being organized! it will be interesting to see if i can hack it. i really, really hope there are still people out there reading this dumb blog.

one year

paws

 

avery (aka “bluedawg”), march 22 1999 – july 27 2013

i never wrote about this at the time, because it was too painful, and now an entire year has gone by and i just can’t believe it. a year ago tonight, we held avery for the last time, and said goodbye.

just a week prior, he’d been to the vet for his usual checkup and everything looked fine — his kidney values (which we’d always kept tabs on) were great. and then suddenly, exactly seven days after that checkup, he didn’t want to eat and got lethargic and barfy, so we took him back in. we got the bad news: his kidney values looked bad, and our vet wanted him to go to the emergency vet right away to be monitored. it was a friday afternoon, and we drove him out to the same emergency vet who had treated him 15 months prior when he had a kidney emergency. they did an ultrasound (as they had the first time) and things looked very similar to his earlier visit, so they decided to try the same treatment, because he’d responded so well previously. we had to leave him overnight, and they’d call us in the morning with an update.

unfortunately, in the morning things didn’t look better at all; he wasn’t responding this time, and his kidneys were shutting down. we drove out to visit him, and he seemed pretty sad. it was heartbreaking. we asked to try new/different meds/fluids for another few hours, just in case, and they indulged us. we took a walk and went to a coffee shop and basically just tried desperately to distract ourselves while waiting for the phone call. when they called, it was bad news again: no change whatsoever, and basically out of options. we weren’t ready for this at all, and we felt so terrible for him, and we were just lost.

we went back to the emergency vet and talked about euthanasia, and i talked to our regular vet on the phone to get her input as well, and the whole thing was kind of a blur. we couldn’t believe we had to make this decision and we couldn’t believe we had to say goodbye and we just Didn’t Want This At All. they brought avery in to see us, and we snuggled with him and told him we loved him about a million times, and eventually we had to decide when we were “ready,” which was excruciating. when they administered the shot we held him close and whispered “i love you” into his ears over and over, and i don’t know if i’ve ever cried so much or so long. even writing this, i’m crying all over again and it feels like it was last week, instead of last year.

we adopted avery from a rural shelter outside of austin, texas. we were “just looking” and absolutely not planning to adopt a kitty that day, but avery stole our hearts almost immediately. he was one year old, and had been captured by animal control (with his brother) a week prior. he had been an outside cat his whole life (we always figured he lived near a restaurant parking lot, because he was ultra friendly and liked to beg for food, heh), but he was extremely outgoing and the most mellow cat we’d ever met. it was like holding a ferret; he was just lounging in our arms five minutes after meeting us. we left to check out other shelters in the area, but we kept talking about avery, and decided to go right back and adopt him that evening.

because he was so outgoing and silly, we thought he seemed more like a dog than a cat, and because he was grey (or “blue” in animal colors), we started calling him our “little blue dog.” and then, because he was from texas, we added a little southern drawl, and “bluedawg” was born. those of you who have known me for a long time and from other places will recognize that name, i imagine.

avery lived with us in austin for about five months, and then moved with us to milwaukee when we graduated. he lived in three different houses with us here, and he was the kind of cat who took everything in stride. we adopted finley when avery was four years old, and after making it clear that he was head honcho, he “adopted” finley and gave him baths and snuggled with him and play-fought with him, and just basically became best buddies for the ten years they lived together. we adopted maia when avery was nine years old, and again, he made it clear that he was in charge, and she absolutely fell in line. he wasn’t afraid of anything, and he was hilariously noisy. one of the biggest things we realized after he was gone was how quiet finley and maia are on a day-to-day basis. avery was forever yelling and making himself known, and you could carry on entire conversations with him.

i feel like i could write forever and never do him justice, and i already feel like i’m being self-indulgent. i just really needed an outlet today, because i’m missing him in a really heart-hurting way. thanks for listening. avery, you are loved, and you are missed. <3

it’s adopt-a-turkey time again!

woo hoo, get excited! if you’re new to veganism and/or new to farm sanctuary, you might also be new to adopt-a-turkey time. if you’ve never heard of it before, you can read all about it here. farm sanctuary does this every november, and they have a new crop of adorable turkeys up for sponsorship every year. i am sponsoring a turkey for what seems like my umpteenth year (i picked clove!), and i’m planning to have her picture at our thanksgiving meal. we’re hosting a vegan thanksgiving for our non-vegan family members (who are all good sports), and i think maybe having clove’s picture there will be a nice touch.

i decided to sponsor clove because she’s at the northern california shelter, which is the one i visited a few years ago, so i have an emotional attachment to that location. while we were visiting, we met a hilarious and amazing flock of girl turkeys (one of whom stole my banana). hopefully clove has made some good friends, maybe even with someone in that flock we met. <3 take a look at the sweeties up for adoption this year, and please sponsor one if you can!

barkTHINS snacking chocolate

you guys, have you seen these barkTHINS yet?! if not, do yourself a favor and keep an eye out, because they are firmly seated at holy crap levels of delicious.

snacking chocolate

we were at our favorite little market-attached-to-a-restaurant recently, and these guys were just hanging out on a shelf. they had two varieties: these with the pretzels, and another version that had dark chocolate & almonds instead. erik picked them up (because he is a naive optimist) and we were totally stoked to learn that BOTH varieties were vegan. what WHAT?! we decided to try the pretzel version first, because it was a little more unusual, and let’s just say they were gone in a matter of a couple of days.

about a week later, we were at a co-op and i saw a totally different variety (dark chocolate mint!) that is ALSO VEGAN. you guys. i just can’t even with this stuff. first of all, it’s called snacking chocolate, which i love. i mean let’s be honest, sometimes we eat chocolate just because. i am very well known for just sitting around, brazenly eating it over a bucket. snacking chocolate: let’s call it what it is.

and second of all, they make five flavors, four of which are vegan! alongside the dark chocolate pretzel, dark chocolate almond, and dark chocolate mint, i just learned that there is dark chocolate pumpkin seed. YES PLEASE. if you want to see all of the labels so you know what you’re looking for, here you go! i don’t know about you, but i need all of these flavors in my house, pronto.

brunch at the national

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a couple of weekends ago, a friend and i were heading out for brunch, and i felt my brain being pulled toward my usual favorites. before i even had a chance to suggest one, though, she piped in and said, “how about the national?” it’s a place a mutual friend had mentioned recently, and i hadn’t been there in AGES (seriously, i’m pretty sure it’s been at least a couple of years). i’d been hearing good things about the national recently, and i’d always liked the cute vibe in their cafe, so off we went to check it out.

it probably goes without saying that i kicked off my order with a chai, yes?

national chai

they have a pretty good selection on their menu for vegans (i’m always impressed by vegan french toast as an option), and i was in a brunchy mood so i stuck to that area of the menu. i settled on the breakfast burrito, and a side of potatoes:

national breakfast burrito

the vegan breakfast burrito comes with tofu, black bean spread, avocado, peppers, and onions. it’s touted as “really big!” on the menu, but as you can see it was actually quite flat. that surprised me when it arrived, and i wouldn’t say it filled me up, but it was still tasty. the salsa was really flavorful and gave the burrito a nice punch. the side of rosemary breakfast potatoes was a great decision, too. yum.

i’d love to go back (in less than two years, ha!) and give the french toast a try — if memory serves, it was pretty good way back when. i’d also like to try their black bean sandwich or the hummus wrap. they have breakfast/lunch hours only, so that is sometimes problematic with our night owl schedule, but if we plan ahead i’m sure we can make it work.

aaand that does it for this year’s vegan mofo! thanks for reading about my grub, and thanks for piping in here and there! i’m definitely feeling more in a blogging groove, so i’m going to try to keep the momentum going and get back to my regularly scheduled programming. hope you stick around!

more tacos? why not?!

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today we were about to embark on a day of laziness-slash-working-at-home (or so i thought), when erik suddenly suggested going out to lunch and running a whole bunch of errands. by this point it was 1pm and i still hadn’t eaten breakfast, so i pounced on the idea, mostly because i was starving. we decided on mexican because duh, and we went to one of our favorite places nearby, cafe corazon. it was pretty mild out today, so we ate on the patio. i know these opportunities are going to be dwindling soon, so i try to take advantage when possible.

cafe corazon has a really vegan-friendly menu… several items are clearly labeled as vegan, and you can also veganize a bunch of other items if you want to get creative. their black beans and their rice are vegan, and they have three options for vegan fillings in tacos/burritos/enchiladas: sautéed veggies, herbed tofu, or vegan chorizo. in a nutshell: we love eating there. after perusing the menu today, i decided on tacos (again, because duh), and erik went for the wet burrito. they were out of vegan chorizo today, so we both opted for herbed tofu.

wet burrito

the burritos are ginormous, and the “wet” option comes with vegan enchilada sauce poured over the top. good stuff. i’ve never actually ordered mine this way (i’ve had a regular ol’ dry burrito a few times), but i’m going to have to pull myself away from tacos one of these days and give it a shot. erik loved it. he also had a really delicious sport tea (you can see it in the shot below), that was sort of sweet and lemony. i loved it, and i’m not really an iced tea person.

vegan taco plate

this is my taco plate, and sometimes i struggle to finish it off, but today we (sort of accidentally) skipped the chips & salsa course, so i was able to eat my lunch without feeling overstuffed. they garnish their tacos with lettuce and tomatoes and these beautiful pink radishes, and i always get a kick out of that. so festive! their black beans are my favorite in town; there’s just something about them. they have a little sweetness that makes them magical. in the background you can see their salsa selection (the green is delicious but totes spicy), and i also ordered a side of avos today, because avos make everything better. right? right.