Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy Holidays

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I know, it's been a while since I've posted.  Like most of us, I was caught up in holiday preparations and blogging was the last thing on my mind.  We had a wonderful Yule, hope you did, too!

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Taylor and Lindsey, cutest cooking couple!

For Christmas Eve dinner, I served my usual Stuffed Shells along with Jazzy Vegetarian's Garlic Bread & Salad.

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The Kids' Table

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The obligatory Christmas-morning-in-our-pj's pic!

 Our family's tradition is to order Chinese food on Christmas Day, a welcome reprieve from cooking!


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We are currently in Savannah, GA, drove up to retrieve the motor home yesterday.  After a huge repair bill, she is currently back in working order..whew! Taking into consideration her age and mileage, we've decided not to push her any further, won't be taking this RV on any more long trips.  We'll still take little weekend jaunts,a few hours' drive, but no more mountains! At some point we may upgrade but for now, we'll be vacationing closer to home.

Today we'll head back to Ormond and then tomorrow back down south.  Lots of driving, am glad this "chore" is finally behind us!

I'll be posting on a more regular basis after the new year, new recipes and a re-vamped eating plan in the works!

Have a wonderful day,

Michele

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Menu Planning ~ Post-Thanksgiving Recovery




In order to help each other stay on track throughout the temptation-filled holiday season, my friend Laura and I have decided to "buddy up." We'll be sharing recipes and food journals, supporting and encouraging each other, and if one of us gets into trouble we've agreed to use text messages as a "panic button." *grin*  I'm really looking forward to this process as Laura is such an inspiration to me. A beautiful woman and successful weight loss example, you should go check out her blog.

So, here's my dinner plan for this week, relying heavily on the whole food, plant based, no oil McDougall program:

Quinoa Chowder
Tunsian Sweet Potato Stew
Creamy Vegetable Curry
Southwestern Black Bean Soup
Minestrone Soup 
Moroccan Red Lentil Soup

Yes, you'll note an abundance of soups on the menu; not only is it the perfect season for them (even here in Florida), but Dr. McDougall really loves his soup! There are dozens of different recipes on his site and in books, I could probably eat a different one each day for a year! Since there are only two of us, I end up with plenty of leftovers for lunches or to freeze for another day.

The recipes can be found at the link above, but I'll also be sharing them as I go along.  

Well, it appears that my coffee cup is empty so I think that means my time is up. Off to tackle the unpacking, wish me luck!

Have a wonderful day,

Michele





Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thankful

Wow, I've been "gone" a while, huh? Sorry about that, have just been consumed with packing/moving and all that it entails, then, of course, there was Thanksgiving.  Since all of my kids are in one place and had limited time off from work, it only made sense that Chip and I be the ones to travel. Kristyn was happy to host the dinner, and I was ready to pass the proverbial baton to her, so off we went.

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Kristyn & Jesus did a beautiful job decorating, preparing, and cooking; I was so impressed and very proud of my daughter! The Thanksgiving meal is no easy feat, so many different dishes have to be ready at the same time, but she pulled it off without a hitch. Below is the menu she emailed to me..grin..pardon the saucy language. And, yeah, to appease the omnivores she did cook some turkey legs; they were appreciative since that would not have happened at my house!

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Everything was absolutely delicious! Amidst the traditional dishes our family has always enjoyed, she added some new recipes which quickly become favorites. The photo below does not begin to do the meal justice, it was truly phenomenal! I've included links to the recipes below, please note that vegan substitutions were made anywhere necessary. 

>> MENU <<
Tofurkey
Turkey legs (Serious Eats)
Stuffing (Thug Kitchen)
Mashed potatoes
Green bean casserole (Isa's)
Candied sweet potatoes (Emeril's)
Rolls (canned or pre-made)
Gravy (from turkey/tofurkey)
Ambrosia salad (Grandma's)
Pies (Lindsey)
Cranberry sauce (canned - fuck it)
Brussels sprouts (Food Network Magazine)

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After dinner we relaxed and watched movies, got up the next morning and had breakfast at Lindsey's house before heading back south.  We picked up bagels and cashew cream cheese from a wonderful local market, and I just had to stop & take a pic of these greens. This giant bag of greens, 2 for $5.00! How awesome is that?! 

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Lindsey's balcony herb garden

Bagels & Cashew Cream Cheese, locally made

We spent one night in Ormond then began the arduous process of packing up the house.  We filled the trailer full of the most important items, will have to make another trip for the rest.  Whew!

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So, here we are, settling back into South Florida for real. It's going to be a busy week of unpacking, arranging, organizing, etc so I'll be eating extra-well to keep up my energy. Tomorrow I'll be posting the week's menu, hope you'll stop by.

Have a wonderful day,

Michele

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Menu Planning



 

 I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed here, trying to clean/organize/decorate/reclaim the South Florida house amidst the pre-holiday rush and life's usual "messes." I thought a bit of structure might be helpful, so I am controlling what I can: my menu.

This week I'll be serving these dishes:

Monday: Happy Herbivore's "Cheater" Pad Thai 
Tuesday: Taco Night with Instant Mexican Rice and Mashed Pinto Beans
Wednesday: Shepherds Vegetable Pie
Thursday: Out to Dinner (happy hour with friends)
Friday: Tunsian Sweet Potato Stew
Saturday:  Leftovers
Sunday:  Out to Dinner (Miami Book Fair)

 Please stop by again for recipes and reviews.

Back to the cleaning..have a wonderful day!

Michele

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tales from Home: Settling into South Florida

This weekend we did as much as we could to ease our way back into South Florida life, a mixture of work & play. We enjoyed a Friday night happy hour & dinner with Dad and Kathye..

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Then on Saturday Chip did some home repairs and yard work. We haven't been home long enough to stay on top of things, so the weeds were overgrown and the patio screens torn. There's still much to do but he made some definite progress!

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then we attended a very important animal rights event, March Against Cruelty to Animals...


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and then on Sunday we stopped by the Camelot Days Ren Fest, sorry no pics as we didn't stay long enough. It was hot and sticky in our pirate costumes, the food lines were so long and there were no vegan options, so we left and had a late lunch at our favorite Irish restaurant/pub, The Field. They have a yummy veggie burger as well as a nice beer selection.

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Overall, a very nice weekend. How was yours?

Michele~

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Virtual Vegan Potluck: Stuffed Shells Florentine


Hello, and welcome to the Virtual Vegan Potluck! This is my third time participating and I am honored to have been one of the lucky winners last time around.  By now you've probably whet your appetite with the yummy appetizers and first courses, I hope I can keep your taste buds flowing with my entree, Stuffed Shells Florentine.

I know, it's Autumn and everything's all about pumpkin & spice, mashed potatoes & stuffing and all of the wonderful components of a traditional Thanksgiving feast.  I love all of that, and normally I'd be jumping right in there with everyone, planning & shopping and cooking for the Big Day.  However, this year things are different.  Due to circumstances and distance, we have decided not to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner at our house, but instead will be driving to Gainesville to dine at Kristyn's home.  I'm really excited about this and know that she and Jesus will be wonderful hosts and along with her sisters will create a fantastic meal! I also must confess: after 25+ years of hosting almost every holiday, I'm ready to turn over the baton for this one!

So, what this means I can skip over the Tofurky Day planning and zip right over to Yule! As I've mentioned before, I'm hopelessly enamored with all things Italian.  It's my favorite way to cook, and eat, and this is never more obvious than on Christmas Eve. Our family's longstanding tradition has been cooking up a big Italian meal on that night, preparing enough food to feed extended family, friends, co-workers, whomever may want to stop by for a glass of vino and a plate of pasta.  My "signature dish," the one I'm known for, the most requested for not only holidays but birthdays & other celebrations: Stuffed Shells Florentine.  Served right after antipasto and  before the salad (to help digestion, they say), with a hunk of good Italian bread to soak up the sauce....delizioso!

Now, since going vegan I have been experimenting with a dairy-free version of this recipe, trying many different recipes calling for various vegan cheeses, both commercially-produced and homemade, in attempt to replicate the gooey cheesy goodness of the original.  After much trial & error, I believe I may have come up with the perfect mix, but in order to be 100% sure, I had to get input from a professional, a real Italian: my ex-husband/friend Glenn.

So, last Sunday I dropped Chip off at Glenn's house to watch football, went back home and started cooking.  With my favorite Italian music booming in the background, I got down to business.

I boiled & drained, mixed and filled...

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Sauced and Baked...

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Until, finally, they were ready! I packed a bag with salad, dressing, bread, veggie Parmesan, and a tray of shells, hopped in my car and headed back to Glenn's house to serve.

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 As I watched nervously, he sat, he sniffed, he sprinkled on the Parm..and then, he tasted..

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And at last, the moment I had been waiting & hoping for..the smile broke across his face and his eyes closed in enjoyment. Ahh...he gave his hearty seal of approval.  Whew! I did it! What a relief to know that I can continue to enjoy this family tradition for years to come, and no animals have to suffer for our tummies or taste buds.  And now, I share the recipe with you!

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Stuffed Shells Florentine

 

Ingredients

  • 1 Package (12oz) Jumbo Shells
  • 14 to 16 ounces firm regular tofu, drained
  • 8 ounces non-dairy mozzarella-style cheese (I use almond "cheese" such as this one from Lisanatti)
  • 1/2 cup grated vegan parmesan cheese (such as this one from Go Veggie), plus more for topping
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning (or a mix of fresh basil & parsley if you prefer)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon tamari
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well
  • 1 jar (32oz) pasta sauce of your choice (plus more for serving)

Directions

  1. Prepare pasta as directed on package, cooking til tender but still slightly firm (al dente); drain. Rinse with cold water, drain and when cool enough to handle, arrange in single layer to fill.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together cheeses, spices, olive oil & spinach. Using a teaspoon, fill cooked shells with cheese mixture, about a tablespoon per shell. Because some shells inevitably break, you'll probably have between 30 - 40 shells. 
  3. Cover bottom of roasting pan with a layer of the sauce. Arrange filled shells in single layer in the pan. If desired, top with extra mozzarella and Parmesan. Pour remaining sauce over shells, cover with foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until hot. Remove foil, bake another 15 minutes or so until cheese is melted and bubbly.
 Makes 6 to 8 generous servings.

For more scrumptious main dishes, make sure you visit the awesome blogger that precedes mine, Veghotpot, and the fabulous one after, Yum for Tum.  You don't want to miss a single delicious bite!

Buon Appetito!

Michele


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

On My Hearth: Quickie Curry

I've been so busy the past 24 hours, unpacking & cleaning, organizing and settling back into my home here. Whew! There is still so much to do but I got a lot accomplished yesterday, even managed a quick grocery store run just to buy the necessities - bread, veggies, and a few ingredients for  last night's dinner.

At my friend Susan's recommendation, I picked up a bottle of Red Curry sauce from Trader Joe's last week, decided to throw together a quick curry dinner last night.  Rice + veggies + curry sauce + fried tofu & and little coconut milk..

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Stir-fried together..

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Equals a very tasty dinner! I was quite pleased with the sauce but Chip said it had a "weird" flavor, I think it was a bit too heavy on the ginger for his taste. We both gobbled it up and have enough left over for my lunch today. Yum!

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More household projects on the horizon, better get moving. 

Have a wonderful day,

Michele


Monday, November 4, 2013

There's No Place Like Home

"...if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with." 
~ Dorothy, Wizard of Oz

It's taken a couple of days, but I think I've finally recovered from the vacation-from-hell, as we are now calling it.  We spent Halloween regrouping and preparing for the trick or treaters...

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A quick but sweet visit from Lindsey & Taylor (and Lucy, too!) certainly helped with the transition..

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On Sunday morning we picked up a rental car, and with Lindsey's help (and Loki's supervision), we packed the kitties into their crates, loaded up the cars and headed south. 

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I'm thrilled to report that we made it home without incident, and in plenty of time to unpack and enjoy a lovely dinner on the beach.  Ahh...it's good to be home.

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We'll be in South Florida for a couple of months at least, much as I prefer my lifestyle in Central Florida, there are some perks to being here as well. Whether it be north or south, there truly is no place like home.

Have a wonderful day,

Michele~

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tales from the Road: Somewhere on 1-95 Southbound

Before I get into the story behind that blog title, let me just say that the rest of our visit in Asheville was nice. We went shopping at Trader Joe's, a big deal for us since there TJ's has just begun breaking into the Florida market and there's not (yet) a store near either of our homes.  We bought a few groceries, then stopped at a local brewery for lunch, Wicked Weed. We loved the beer, the interesting decor, and the quote behind the name:

"Hops are a wicked and pernicious weed" ~  King Henry VIII, 1519


My spinach/cucumber/shallot sandwich was so good, and I appreciate the manager coming out to my table to inquire about my dietary preferences, and offer to substitute a vegan hamburger bun for the roll normally used. Excellent customer service!

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Before we left, we asked the adorable waitress for a souvenir to take home, a big ol' "growler" filled with a local brew. A certain lucky friend of ours will enjoy that!

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We stayed in the motorhome for the remainder of the afternoon/evening, packing up and preparing for the next day's drive.  We took a cocktail over to the sitting area overlooking the city, said our goodbyes to the mountains and that gorgeous view.

Up bright and early yesterday morning, we were ready to roll by daybreak.  Now, I admit that after the experience of coming up those mountains, I was nervous as hell about the ride down! But I needn't have worried; Chip did an amazing job driving and by lunchtime we were out of NC and making our way through SC. The plan was to drive until Chip grew tired, then find an RV park nearby to spend the night. We had reservations already in Fernandina Beach, FL, but were prepared to stop earlier if needed. Well, the motorhome made that decision for us.

Somewhere in the middle of SC (mile marker 47, to be exact), Chip watched as the speedometer sped up to 100 mph (on its own!) and the then engine shut down completely.  He got out, checked the fluids, did whatever mechanical engineers do when something doesn't work properly, tried to start her up again and when that failed, called Good Sam's roadside assistance.

We decided to have it towed to Camping World in Savannah, where we bought it from.  The mechanics there had worked on it before and Chip felt comfortable with them, and we figured the closer we could get to home, the better, making the eventual pick-up easier.  At this point, I was so aggravated I didn't care where it went, and actually told Chip to just sell the thing.  Anyway, of course that was going to cost a lot considering the distance, to the tune of about $350.00.  Gulp.  What other choice did we have? Resigned to our fate, we packed up as much as we could into grocery and duffel bags, loaded all of the " valuables" into the car.


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Yes, as you can see, we still had our sense of humor! No wine was left behind, but I did have to leave some of our newly-puchased TJ's items in the kitchen cabinets. *pout*  Hopefully they'll be ok for a few days (weeks?) until we get back there. 

Chip unhooked the tow dolly from the RV, attached it to the car, and made our plans.  The GPS said it was going to take 4 hours and 15 minutes to get home, a do-able drive, thank goodness.  Had Loki not been with us, we might have stayed overnight in a hotel and waited to hear some news from the mechanics, but that wasn't an option so down the road we went. Since we were towing an empty dolly which tends to bounce all over the road when not weighted down, we had to drive slower than usual - 60mph, the whole way.

The trip took about 6 hours, and let me tell you, by the time we crossed the Florida/Georgia line I was almost shedding tears of joy! I was never so happy to see home in all my life! This was not a good vacation, to say the least, and though we made the best of it and enjoyed some happy moments, we both agreed that we will never do that again, at least not in our aging motorhome.  At this point, I'm ready to unpack my suitcase and keep my happy butt at home for a good long time. 

Alas, that is not to be as Chip is scheduled to work in south Florida on Monday.  We had planned on driving the RV down there since we'll be bringing the kitties this time, but that doesn't look possible now.  We're in a wait & see mode, but in the meantime I'm going to appreciate being home, for however brief a time, until we travel to the other home. Whew. 

I'm one tired gal this morning, but there's unpacking and, laundry to do and then trick-or-treaters to greet! There's a rumor that a certain daughter of mine may be driving over to visit on Saturday, keep your fingers crossed for me as that sure would lift my spirits!

Happy Halloween, Samhain blessings to my fellow Pagan friends.

Michele~

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tales from the Road: Asheville, NC

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I'm happy to report that yesterday was much better than the one before..whew! We started out the day with a visit to my favorite independent bookshop, Malaprop's.  I picked up a couple of new novels and enjoyed a big ol' bowl of soy latte.  Yum!

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We then headed to Walmart for some "necessary" shopping, including an electric blanket. Thanks to Karen & Al for the suggestion, we had a much more comfortable sleep last night! 

Chip wanted to visit a local brewery, Wedge, but discovered it didn't open until 4 pm, darn! It was lunchtime so we stopped at a little spot  in the River Arts District, White Duck Taco Shop.   I was pleased to see a vegan dish on the menu, the Banh Mi Tofu Taco, delicious!

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We spent the afternoon at the campground, watched a movie and did a load of laundry. Here are a couple of pics from the park. As I said, the view is gorgeous but this type of campground is just not my cup of tea. I need more space between my neighbors, and a better walking path for Loki. The park is pristine, the owner is anal about keeping it so, has signs posted everywhere with instructions from where to walk, park, etc, right down to the exact amount of detergent to use in the washing machine. While I appreciate her efforts and can see that they pay off, I like a more relaxed environment while on vacation!

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For dinner, we went to the place I've been looking soooo forward to: Plant, the only 100% vegan restaurant in Asheville. I wish I had better pics to show you but the lighting was dim and I refuse to use a flash.  Here's one of Chip enjoying his "wild" barbeque and a local beer.  I had the hazelnut encrusted tempeh (they were out of seitan) with whipped cauliflower & veggies.  Oh. My. Goodness. Absolute heaven! I wish we had room for dessert and considered taking it to go, but since most of the selections included ice cream that wasn't an option.


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After dinner we stopped for a night cap at The Wedge, I had a hard cider and Chip a porter, both very tasty. No pics as it was too dark, but the atmosphere was so cool, a mix of locals & tourists.

We spent some time talking to a young man who happens to be a chef at a restaurant nearby, Table. Though they are known for their meats, he assured me that he makes an awesome vegan entree. Perhaps next time we visit the area we'll check it out.

While at Plant, I noticed that there's a Trader Joe's right across the street! I've heard so much about this store yet they are just starting to spread into Florida and, alas, no locations near my house. So today's agenda is to blow the last of my vacation budget...on groceries.  *grin*  I also want to pick up some little souvenirs for my daughters' boyfriends, so looks like it'll be a shopping day.

Tomorrow we are going home, so we'll probably spend the afternoon at the site, packing and preparing to get an early morning start.  It's been fun (well, mostly), but I'm ready to go home.

Have a wonderful day,

Michele