Life, Lately

Long time no blog.

8 months, to be precise. My longest blogging hiatus pretty much ever. Why? I just wasn’t feeling it. I spent those 8 months immersing myself in new hobbies and activities, refocusing my energies and interests. Food–the act of reading about it and writing about it and talking about it–just didn’t interest me the way it used to. Instead of blogging, I knitted and sewed and got back in touch with my creative side. I opened an Etsy shop, The Pesky Pixie. I offer cruelty-free, eco-friendly items, like reusable fabric napkins and knitted coffee cup cozies. I also make super-cute bow ties for doggies (and obliging kitties!). They’re adorable. Check ‘em out.

As the weather warmed, both S and I took up an entirely new hobby. Since the new year, S has been on a dedicated weight-loss journey. Armed with his FitBit, calorie counts, and his feet, he’s lost nearly 30 pounds. I’m so proud of him. He started by walking regularly, and as spring rolled in, he began running. We began running. S started a Couch to 5K program, and I joined him about 1/3 of the way through (I thought I was too advanced for the beginning couple weeks… ha). It’s been transformative. I mean it, too. Stop rolling your eyes.

In the past few weeks, though, I’ve found myself looking at food blogs and cookbooks with increasing frequency. One night when I was having trouble sleeping, I jotted down some ideas for homemade ice creams. Basically, I’m feelin’ it again. Expect more posts soon. In the meantime, how about a recap of the past 8 months in Instagram form? You can follow me at @kelmishka to see more. As I say on my bio, I don’t have a smartphone, so all my photos are taken at home on my iPad. (Spoiler alert: They’re mostly of Moria!)

I’ll share in chronological order, because what else would I do.

Thanksgiving with my family was both delicious and delightful. Sharing it with this curious little boy was the icing on the cake (um, the gravy on the Tofurky?).

Our first Christmas tree! I cut it down myself after we wound up on a cut-your-own farm accidentally.

It was a long, cold, brutal winter (well, brutal in MD terms… not so brutal compared to the ol’ WI winters!). I spent many hours snuggled up on the couch knitting.

I told you doggie bow ties are cute.

S’s mum gave us a sprouting kit for Christmas. We’ve been putting it to good use, although we went a little overboard the first time!

I celebrated Teddy’s first birthday in RI. He’s a goof.

I raided my mom’s fabric stash for napkin and bow tie materials.

Mama painted me a pretty bowl for my 27th birthday (seen here filled with BBQ chickpeas!).

Moria find herself in the weirdest positions. How is this comfy?

My bulletin board at work.

Best Christmas present ever. Thanks, parents! This baby has revolutionized my bread-making game.

Knitted bow brooches and hair ties are sweet accessories.

My first craft show! We have them twice yearly at the office. So much fun.

Sometimes Little Dog’s tongue comes out when she’s dreaming. Probably chasing a squirrel.

Standard fare.

Ladygirl at work. She’s the boss of me.

Choosing the color palette for a new project–a bib for my baby cousin.

New home for my cookbooks and my KitchenAid–a $5 yard sale find! Still need to repaint and find some fun knobs.

S, me, and my mom right after our first 5K (the Gaspee 5K in Warwick, RI). I felt great. Like our shirts? We had ‘em made specially!

New running shirt purchased at my 5-year Carleton reunion. A rejuvenating weekend with some of my best friends in one of my favorite places in the world.

I’ve been all about salads lately. This one is marinated tofu, coconut bacon, and a homemade ranch sauce… topped with hemp seeds, of course.

Cucumbers are for pickling.

Five and a half pounds of scrumptious berries from Frog Eye Farm. Moria came, too!

My sweet new animal-product-free running shoes–Brooks Ravenna. They feel great!

I’ll be back soon with some FOOD. :)

Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal

This admission may be blasphemous in most vegan and/or healthy-eating circles, but here it is: I don’t really like bananas. I’ve mentioned it before, but it remains true. We just don’t get along.

Straight-up bananas are what really give me grief. Every so often I think my tastes and texture preferences might’ve changed, and I gamely set forth in a brave quest to conquer a single banana. (Of course, it has to be on the overripe end of the spectrum; any hint of green and the accompanying less-than-ripe smell and I’m gagging before I begin.) I peel it. I take a bite and quickly chew and swallow. This isn’t so bad, I think. I can do this. Then I’m two bites in and I’m remembering why I don’t do this. There’s a slimy mass on the back of my throat and an unpleasant smell in my nose. I force myself to swallow. I gag. I hand the banana off to S, who wonders aloud why on earth I keep doing this to myself.

Why, indeed. Bananas are a perfect on-the-go snack; they come with their own protective suit that keeps them safe in your purse or backpack. I want to be able to eat an entire banana while waiting for a flight without worrying about gagging aloud or having to furtively find a trashcan to dispose of the half-eaten fruit.

But alas, straight-up banana-lovin’ doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me.

I do, however, like bananas in other foods. Muffins. Soft-serve. And of course, banana bread. I love banana bread.

The thing about banana bread, though, is that I don’t consider it an appropriate breakfast food. Which is not to say that I’ve never indulged in a slice for breakfast, but it never fills me up. Banana bread—and most quick breads—are typically loaded with white flour, oil, and sugar. Not exactly the nutrients needed to get you off to a rip-roarin’ start.

This breakfast, however, combines all the flavors of banana bread in a wholesome, protein-packed baked oatmeal. It appeases both your love (or lukewarm like) of bananas and your need for a filling, nutritious breakfast. And it’s dead easy; everything comes together effortlessly in a blender. Now that’s a banana recipe I can get behind—no gagging involved.

Almost top-down view of a square of baked oatmeal on a small white plate with two Medjool dates. In the background is a mug of coffee.

Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal
Serves four

Coconut oil, oil spray, or Earth Balance for buttering the pan
3 very ripe medium-sized bananas
1 cup nondairy milk of choice
2 T ground flax
2 T maple syrup
1 1/2 T blackstrap molasses
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 t baking powder
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
2 C rolled oats
1/4 C add-in of choice (chopped walnuts, chopped dates, chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 375˚. Spread the oil or Earth Balance around the inside of an 8”x8” square baking dish, making sure to cover all sides.

Add the bananas and milk to a blender and blend until fully smooth. Add all other ingredients except the oats and add-ins and blend again to incorporate all ingredients. Add the oats and blend for 30 seconds or so until the oats are partially broken into small pieces but aren’t fully blended.

Pour the mix into your prepared pan and drop any add-ins on top. Using a large spoon, gently fold in the add-ins. For an extra treat, sprinkle the top with a teaspoon or two of brown sugar.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the top is golden and the milk doesn’t look liquid-y on top of the oats. Remove from oven and let cool for 3-5 minutes to let set, then serve and enjoy!

TJ’s Gourmet: Polenta with Kale, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and White Bean Puree

There are few more masochistic things about me than my desire to do most things The Hard Way. If there’s an easy way out… I’m probably not going to take it. There’s definitely some flawed thinking here, though I’m not sure exactly why it happens. Maybe I don’t like to feel lazy? Maybe I like to feel put-upon? I don’t know. It’s probably not good.


Sometimes, even I have to admit that the easy way out is totally awesome.

Like prepared polenta.

And canned beans.

And prepared sun-dried tomatoes.

And organic kale… in a bag.

And getting all those things at a single store.

Yes, I practically live at Trader Joe’s these days. Other than Giant, it’s the nearest grocery store, and it has a good selection of vegan and organic products. Do I miss my Madison co-op and feel horribly guilty for buying non-local bagged kale? Yep. Am I willing to drive to the nearest ridiculously busy Whole Foods and spend absurd amounts of money instead? Nope.

So yeah, we have a lot of TJ’s products in our pantry. Last night, I put a bunch of them together to make an easy dinner with a surprisingly gourmet feel. Sun-dried tomatoes add a pleasant chewy counterpoint to the crunchy kale and soft polenta, and the puree ties everything together.

This is a lazy meal that doesn’t taste lazy. Whizzing up the puree was the hardest part.

Instagram photo of a bed of kale and sun-dried tomatoes with half-moon polenta pieces topped with a white bean puree.

Early sunset = bad lighting = iPad Instagram photos galore!

Polenta with Kale, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and White Bean Puree
Serves two

For the puree:

  • 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern beans (or any soft white bean)
  • Scant 2/3 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3/4 t dried thyme
  • 1/2 t garlic powder (I would’ve used fresh garlic, but we were out!)
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper, and paprika to taste

Everything else:

  • A few large handfuls chopped Tuscan kale
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (the kind that’s packed in oil)
  • Half a tube of prepared polenta, cut into rounds and then sliced into half-moons.

Combine all puree ingredients in a food processor and process until you have a smooth puree. Taste for seasonings and adjust to your preference. Transfer to a small pot and heat on medium-low while preparing the rest of the meal.

In a large non-stick pan, heat a small amount of olive oil on medium. Add the kale and sun-dried tomatoes to the pan and cook for three to four minutes. You can add some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes for added deliciousness. (Minced garlic would be yummy as well, but we were out.) After the kale cooks down and shrinks a bit, add the polenta to the pan. It will be crowded, but you can make room! Cook for another five to seven minutes, flipping the polenta once, until the polenta has a bit of a golden crust.

Turn off the heat and serve: make a layer of kale and tomatoes and top with the polenta. Ladle on a healthy scoop of puree and serve!

What’s your favorite easy “gourmet” dinner? Which Trader Joe’s products do you love? 

Cappuccino Ice Cream

Back in New England, the Hood dairy company is a big thing. Hoodsie Cups were the default low-cost, at-school celebration dessert, and Hood ice cream held a substantial share of supermarket freezer shelves. As a kid, I naturally loved ice cream, and I naturally preferred the chock-full-of-other-sweet-things varieties—peanut butter chocolate swirl was always my favorite. The simpler flavors, like strawberry or vanilla, seemed boring and bland to me. Why waste your time on a single flavor when you could have two? Or three?? And chunks of cookies or chocolate?! And the bottom-of-the-barrel single-flavor ice cream option, in my youthful opinion, was coffee. Ew. Neither of my parents drank coffee, and I did NOT like its flavor. The idea of it infiltrating my ice cream was offensive.

Until I tried Hood coffee ice cream.

I remember it as a transformative moment for my tastebuds, even if I can’t tell you when or where it happened. I remember hesitantly eating a spoonful, ready for the familiar disappointment tinged with disgust, and feeling neither. Instead, I tasted a deep flavor with more to it than just sugary sweetness. I couldn’t tell, at first, whether I actually liked it, but I soon decided I did.

Since then, I’ve had a soft spot for coffee ice cream. It’s not typically my preferred choice—I’m still a sucker for anything with chocolate and peanut butter (old habits die hard). But I appreciate it as a slightly more sophisticated option, and I truly enjoy its flavor now. Or at least I did until I stopped eating dairy—I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a vegan coffee ice cream

So it was with a certain amount of nostalgic pleasure that I noticed a few coffee-centric recipes as I browsed through my copy of The Vegan Scoop, the cookbook my aunt gave me for Christmas last year. For my second-ever homemade ice cream (and my first-ever from this cookbook), I selected the Cappuccino variety.

Three scoops of a light brown ice cream in a glass bowl.

This ice cream gets its coffee kick from instant espresso powder, an ingredient I like to have on hand. Unfortunately, my powder sat in storage for a month and a half this summer, so it was more of a melted-then-rehardened glob than a powder. But it dissolved just fine in the hot ice cream mixture.

This ice cream-making experience was notably different from my first one—it took much longer for the ice cream to actually freeze in the machine; I wondered it if was going to stay liquid forever. And the final result was not as firm as the blueberry crumble ice cream. Instead, it’s a soft, melty ice cream that tends to get a little icy around the edges. I wish I could say that the flavor instantly transported me back to that childhood moment when I first realized that coffee ice cream wasn’t all bad, but it didn’t. The recipe called for half a teaspoon of cinnamon, and unfortunately that pungent spice nearly overwhelmed the coffee. It tastes good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a little sweeter than I’d prefer and it’s definitely not straight-up coffee ice cream.

Back to the drawing board, then! Now that I’ve got the basic mechanics of homemade ice cream figured out, I might have to take matters into my own hands and come up with a coffee-centric recipe of my own.

What’s your favorite coffee ice cream?

P.S. In case you’ve been waiting for the conclusion of my bee-in-the-car saga… I don’t have one. S and I have been car-swapping since Tuesday evening. He reports that the bee has not reappeared, despite a sugar trap he craftily placed in the car. The uncertainty is killing me! What if it’s just waiting for me to get back in the driver’s seat so it can make an appearance?! What if it is too smart to get trapped in the bottle and is instead feasting by night and secluding itself during the day, growing fat on straight sugar water?! What if it decides to hibernate in my car, rather than face the incessant rain that’s been drowning Maryland for the last few days?!?

…these are the irrational thoughts of my phobic brain. Most likely it is dead or it just escaped unseen back on Tuesday, but I fear the worst. SIGH.

The “B” Word

Something you might not know about me: I’m terrified of bees and all their stinging brethren. Even the word makes my heart beat a little faster (and not in a good way). It’s a bit of a phobia, and it is one of the few things that diminishes my love of the warm-weather months.

Today, my organization hosted a co-departmental picnic at a local state park, two hours of snacking and socializing. It was lovely to spend a few hours outdoors during the work day noshing on yummy vegan snacks, and there was only one small problem: bees. Stupid, stupid, late-summer, early-autumn bees. Yellow jackets, to be precise, buzzing around our food and around us. Thankfully, they ignored me for most of the afternoon, and I managed to keep my terror in check.

Then, as the event drew to a close, I made a fatal error. I agreed to take our group’s trash and recycling from the park, since I live pretty close and could just throw it all in the bins when I reached my apartment complex. As I carried the small box out, a yellow jacket started buzzing around it. I yelped and put the box down until the beast flew away. I thought I was safe.

I was wrong.

Ten minutes later, as I was stopped at a red light on my way home, I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw it: the mother-effing bee was IN THE CAR. It had clearly stowed away in the bag of trash and was now emerging to ruin my day.

“OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD,” I said aloud. I started talking to myself, trying to prevent the onset of panic that my phobia induces. The seconds stretched on for near-eternities as I anxiously waited for the red light to change, planning my escape. The bee had disappeared from my rear-view mirror. I wondered what I would do if it suddenly appeared, buzzing and sinister, in the front seat with me. I imagined an involuntary release of the brake and a sudden lurch into the intersection, where I’d quickly be rammed by an oncoming car. Clearly I was about to die, just because I have an overblown and irrational fear of a small winged insect.

The light changed. I pushed the pedal and zoomed forward, switching lanes quickly so I could pull into a gas station on the right side of the road. I parked, hopped out of my car, and dialed our home phone with shaking hands. I requested S’s presence and assistance, not because he’s a dude and I’m a lady or anything dumb like that, but simply because he does not share my overwhelming bee-fear and is better equipped to handle situations like these.

As I waited for S, I called my sister to commiserate, knowing that she’s one of the few people who could fully appreciate the situation—she, too, has a severe case of apiphobia. As we talked, I saw the yellow jacket crawling on the rear window of my car. I should’ve opened the hatchback and let it out right then, but I was terrified it would fly out and into my face. Instead I watched it, repulsed and nauseated.

By the time S arrived, the little bastard had disappeared again. And… we never found it. We methodically opened all the doors one by one, so I could monitor them and verify that the bee flew out. But we never saw it leave. S took the bags of trash and recycling out and emptied them on the grass (don’t worry, he didn’t leave them there!), searching for the bee in the empty soda cans and plastic cups. It wasn’t there.

Finally, we gave up. Horrified at the possibility that it was lurking in some crevice of my car, waiting to buzz out at me, I drove S’s car home while he took mine. The bee never made another appearance.

So now, hours later, I am still anxious about the incident. I’m disquieted by the bee’s absence and convinced it’s still hiding in my car. I might have to drive S’s car for a few days, just in case.

In the meantime, though, I need to thank S for his unfailing and non-judgmental support. Probably by making him a dessert of some sort. Whaddya think? And do you have any phobias?

(P.S. Sorry for the post-MoFo silence. I’m still recovering!) 

MoFo 2013: A Compendium of Recipes I Didn’t Make (Yet)

This is, as they say, it. Today is the last day of September and the final day of MoFo 2013. I think it’s been a good run. I’m pleased that I shared more original recipes than usual, but a little disappointed that I was harried for the last week (after returning from RI) and didn’t post any new ones during that time. C’est la vie, I guess. My trip was worth it!

When I was preparing for this MoFo, I started Pinning potential recipes like crazy. But there are only so many days in the month (and only so many baked goods I can stomach), so many of those recipes went unmade. But I thought I’d share some of the ones I haven’t yet made, because there are just so many great options for working with seasonal fruit. Enjoy!

Recipes featuring apples

Recipes featuring blackberries

Recipes featuring blueberries

Recipes featuring pumpkin (…yeah, there are a lot…)

Although some of the above recipes were posted during this MoFo, many of them have been available for a few years. So I thought I’d also share some non-seasonal-fruit recipes from this MoFo that made me drool. My fellow bloggers cooked up some amazing concoctions this past month!

Whew! I think that’s enough links for now. :)

To wrap up, here’s a photo of a recipe I created last August in preparation for MoFo. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out the way I’d wanted, so I never posted it. But I’m thinking I’ll perfect it soon and share it then. I still have lots of other ideas I never implemented, so look out for more seasonal (and slightly unseasonal) fruit recipes in the months to come!

Top-down view of checkered paper, with a cast-iron pan filled with a sweet cake. It's topped with a crumble. To the right of the pan is a small white plate with a sliver of the cake.

How was YOUR vegan month of food? What recipes inspired you?

Lazy Sunday IV

Oh no! I just realized that something went wrong with last Sunday’s auto-publishing, and my third Lazy Sunday post never went up! Quelle horreur! I’ve posted it now, so take a gander if you feel so inclined. (There’s a photo of a cat!)

On this particular Lazy Sunday, I am sitting at our kitchen island drinking coffee mixed with that pumpkin coconut caramel sauce I blogged about last week. My breakfast was half a grapefruit and half of the pumpkin creme doughnut we picked up yesterday. I’ll probably eat the rest of the grapefruit before embarking on my plans for the day, which are as follows:

  1. Finish drafting an email of recommendations for things to do in Ireland for a friend who will be there for two weeks in October. (Lucky lady!)
  2. Check out some thrift stores because my business casual wardrobe needs some autumnal augmentation.
  3. Read! I’m behind on my Goodreads book goal for the year and need to catch up. :) (On that note, add me on Goodreads!)

Aaanyway. Time to answer some prompts for my final (!) MoFo installment of Lazy Sunday!

A food/ingredient you didn’t used to like but now you do; how did the transition happen?

I used to hate sweet potatoes. I know! It was that whole savory/sweet issue. I actually only started liking them in college—I blogged about the transition (complete with a craptastic photo taken on my dorm room bed) at my old blog. Basically, I think my tastebuds just grew up. :)

What’s your killer dish when you’re cooking for non-vegans?

Usually it’s a dessert of some kind. I’ve made (and blogged about) the raspberry chocolate chip blondie bars from VWaV a few times, and they’re always a crowd-pleaser. The stuffed mushrooms we served at our harvest party were a HUGE hit—I can’t wait to make them again.

Small table decorated with gourds and filled with lots of food - stuffed mushrooms, various dips, mini cupcakes, candied nuts, and more.

Harvest party spread.

What’s your newest foodie discovery and how did you discover it?

This is only a partially new discovery, but: Dave’s Coffee Syrup. Now, if you’re not from New England, you probably aren’t familiar with coffee syrup. It’s exactly what it sounds like, though—the coffee version of chocolate syrup. It’s a HUGE deal in Rhode Island; I grew up drinking coffee milk (milk + coffee syrup… heh), even though I was never its biggest fan (I preferred chocolate milk). The mass-produced brands (which are made in RI!) are typically heavy on the sugar and light on the caffeine.

Recently, though, a new coffee syrup started taking the coffee-milk world by storm. It’s free of corn syrup, and cold-brewed coffee is the second ingredient. My dad raved about it, so when we visited Dave’s Coffee last weekend (which I blogged about here—it’s where I had a fantastic soy latte), I picked up a jar of the mocha coffee syrup (it also comes in regular coffee, decaf, and vanilla). How could I resist when it has such killer packaging? I’m a sucker for quality design and branding.

Three-quarter view of a dark amber bottle filled with a dark liquid. The label says

S had never heard of coffee milk and was intrigued by my purchase. He tried it the other day, made with almond milk, and fell in love. And for good reason—this is quality syrup, much better than the sugary crap produced by the other brands. It has a price tag to match, but I think it’s worth it. I can’t wait to try it in other applications; the tag on the bottle suggests using it in a dirty espresso martini, drizzling it over ice cream, and many more mouth-watering ideas. And when I run out, I don’t have to wait till I’m back in RI to restock—you can order online. ;) (Bonus: Look at that great bottle it comes in! I can’t wait to use that for a homemade extract or liqueur.)

What are your answers to any of these questions? Have you had coffee milk? How should I use my coffee syrup? What are you doing this Sunday?