Monday, August 10, 2009

in the daylight anywhere feels like home

I know, I know....I am quite audacious to show up on a long-abandoned food blog after months away, announcing my return and hardly offering any sort of excuse for my extended absence. The nerve.

No, really. I don’t have any excuse. But summer is oppressive, and as I’m writing this the sun has set, my fan is going full blast, and I’m chugging ice water like a freshman boy chugs Natty at his first frat party—and I’m still sweating bullets. Is anyone else ready for August to be over yet? Actually, I can think of one person who probably isn’t ready for this month to be over, my older sister Erin, who is due to have a little munchkin boy this Friday! That’s right, by the end of this week (or maybe next week, depending on how things move along...) I’ll have a new title, Aunt Monica! Does that make me sound old? I feel old. And then in November I’ll be Aunt Monica x2 when my eldest sister Elizabeth haves a cute lil baby girl...and I’ll be a bridesmaid in my other sister Bernadette’s wedding....and at the end of this month I’m helping my younger sister Victoria move into her college apartment...

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But enough with the family newsletter, we’ll save that for Christmastime, ok?

Anyway, almost exactly one month ago, I received the stamp in my passport stating that I had successfully re-entered the country after a 24-day stint in the land that I wish my ancestors were from (they’re not. Those darn Irish and Italians had to spoil all my fun), Scotland. I swear I could write posts every day for the next year detailing all of the adventures and mis-adventures I had while on the isle, but I’ll spare you the details and get to what we’re really here for...the food.

I’m not going to lie, there were several days when a main meal consisted of a Clif bar and a piece of fruit, or a side salad and french fries, or a beer. Totally kidding about that last one! What kind of lush do you take me for?! But, there were also several memorable meals, and many restaurants and pubs were overwhelmingly helpful in putting together a vegan meal for me. My group had infinite patience for me, or at least they didn’t complain too much (to my face) about my eating habits.

One of my most memorable meals was the very first one I had in St. Andrew’s. I don’t even remember the name of the pub, but they had an amazing selection of sandwiches and lunch-food, so I was challenged to make a decision. I decided on a roasted vegetable and hummus sandwich with a big bowl of fries (ahem, chips). It was darn good, feel free to envy me and my delicious food.


Hands down, though, the best meal experience I had in Scotland was at David Bann’s in Edinburgh. It was almost an accident when a few of us stumbled across this vegetarian restaurant, just off the Royal Mile, after a long day of sight-seeing and exploring. I had read about it in my trusty Lonely Planet guide and when my travel-buddies and I found it was ecstatic. Dinner wasn't very pretty, but it sure was delicious...


“Mushroom, runner bean and cashew curry.
With jasmine rice, potato and fenugreek patties. Button mushroom, runner beans and toasted cashews cooked in an aromatic coconut, cashew, fresh tomato and coriander sauce. Served with sweet pineapple chutney and mint salad.”

I have no idea what runner beans are, and I think the jasmine rice was nonexistent, but it's still pretty difficult to get a bad dish of mushrooms and curry. I dug in before remembering to snap a picture, so there’s not a whole lot of food left on the plate. Dessert was a casual affair, three scoops of vegan ice cream on top of crisp cookies with raspberry sauce on the side, and it was especially glorious to my overheated self (of course, I would be in the UK the one time it gets a heat wave of epic proportions).

This was the trip of a lifetime, but I feel like I hardly touched the tip of the iceberg. I can’t wait to go back again, just as soon as I get the money to travel again...I’ll be taking donations for the “Monica has Wanderlust” Fund. All donations are tax deductible.


Nessie sighting?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

'bout that time

Tomorrow I will be hopping the pond in search of grey skies, ancient castles, ruins, bustling metropolises, and someone who is willing to teach me how to play the bagpipes.

That's right, after months of anticipation, the time for my study abroad trip to Scotland is finally here! The challenges of having a chronic illness are creeping up on me just before I depart, but I remain hopeful that everything will be in check by the time I step onto my airplane tomorrow. I'm so nervous that I could just throw up, but my friends and family have been so reassuring as I get crazier and crazier, so I'm starting to feel a little bit better.

I have a whole list of things to do today, including packing, getting last minute supplies, finishing up a paper...which I am supposed to be doing right now. Whoopsie.

This blog will temporarily transform from a food blog to a travel log, a place for me to record and reflect upon my journeys into Far Far Away. I hope you will enjoy it!

If anyone wishes to stay in contact with me while I'm overseas, please email me at I love to hear from old friends and new friends--but no creepers, please.

Wish me luck on my travels!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Confession Time

...because who doesn't love a good revealing discussion of personal things on a blog? I know I'm a big fan of reading about more than just food in other people's lives! Veganism is only one facet of my existence, and I want this blog to reflect my life rather than just my food, so I'm going to start talking a bit more about my quest for a healthy lifestyle, rather than just my experiments in the kitchen (believe me, there will be plenty of that too!).

Before I get into all that shenaniganifery, let me apologize to my 1 loyal reader (hey, roommate Amber!) who chastised me for my lack of updates since returning home for the summer. Sorry. It's not that I don't cook anymore, but as soon as I get home from interning (an hour and a half commute each way, don't get me started on Northern Virginia traffic) I'm exhausted and either forget entirely to photograph my latest culinary adventure or just simply don't have the patience to set up a decent shot. I just want to eat and go to bed! I've become horrifyingly lazy in these last three weeks which leads me into my newest adventure...getting healtheir!

If that seems like a fairly broad statement, well it is. Not that I'm totally unhealthy now, but believe me, I need to do a good amount of work before I'm in decent shape. See, I was never an athletic girl--I was a choir-singing, dance-team member, drama kid. And while all of those things allowed me to have a great amount of physical activity, as soon as I graduated high school a problem set in. I never learned how to "work out"...I just didn't have the discipline that someone who ran track or played soccer had to do a daily workout and frankly, I just didn't care all that much. After I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I fell over the fine line between sickness and health and basically let myself go, until I made the transition to vegan (almost exactly a year ago!), when I started caring about what foods I put into my body. Now I try to eat healthy (most of the time) and work out sporadically (a few times a week), but I'm not pushing myself very hard. I'm not trying to work out more to lose weight, actually, I'm perfectly happy with my current weight, even though my BMI tells me I'm techincally underweight, but I don't trust a chart, I trust my doctor who tells me I normal for my height and build.

What good is an online calculator, anyway? All they do is make people obsess more about their weight and focus less on achieving what's healthy for them (sorry for the rant.) Now, my next step in this quest for self improvement is to get on a regular workout schedule...despite my hectic work schedule. I'm not starting off super-ambitious because I don't want to get burned out, but I definetly need my ass-kicked a little bit.

Who better to do that ass-kicking than miss Jillian Michaels herself? I just did the first workout of her 30-day shred, and I was definetly sweating. I am going to do the 20-minute workout each day and either a 20 minute jog or 40 minute walk, depending on how ambitious I'm feeling.

Sorry for that super long blog :) I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful weekend weather.

PS: T-minus 15 days until I hop the pond for my study abroad trip in SCOTLAND!


Friday, May 8, 2009

Post Finals Week Diet

...begins right after this post.

Congratulations to me and every other college kid, we made it out alive! Sure, we may have blown off our last few exams and those concluding paragraphs on our term papers, but the important thing is that we finished. Who needs good grades when you can have summer vacation?!

So, due to the fact that I have to clear out my entire apartment so I can bring everything back to the Parent's Casa (PC), I'm pretty behind on picture taking. So I'm presenting you all with a few more of my finals-week foods/procrastination techniques. Also: be prepared for some epic baking posts in the coming months as I experiment with different styles of cooking to suit my family's many different food allergies/requirements. My mom's gluten-free, my sister's severely allergic to soy, rice, peanuts, tomatoes, and all orchard fruits, but my daddy'll eat anything I make :)

Annd now onto some peectures. First off, Terry's Favorite Almond Cookies from Veganomicon, which is basically one of my favorite cookbooks of all time. I slightly modified the recipe because I never have everything on hand at the same time and was too cheap/lazy to run to the grocery store for a few random ingredients. I also added in a tablespoon or so of peanut butter because, well, that's just how I roll.


Yum. Obviously there's a reason why these cookies are "Terry's Favorite"--but they'd also be "Monica's Favorite" if there were chocolate chips in them...just sayin'.

Now, while shopping at Kate's Natural Products for some vitamins, I saw, shining like a beacon across the counter, Vegetarian Times on sale for only $1.99! Yes, it was the March issue, and it is now May, but that's besides the point. I don't usually get to buy them because I can't justify spending $4.99 for a magazine, so I was pretty darn excited. I flipped through it (procrastination~) and decided to make the Banana and Black Bean Empanadas...because that was the only recipe in the whole magazine for which I already had all the ingredients on-hand. And they sounded intriguing. Banana's and black beans? Weiiird flavor combo, which I'm all about.

They see me rollin', they hatin'

Fork you!

Golden pillows of peace and justice.

With all said and done, they were quite delicious. The little trepidation I felt about the banana-black bean combination was eased as soon as I took a bite of the crumbly golden crust...but my roommate who also tried one didn't dig it so much. So, I'd only make these for the fairly flavor adventurous on your list.

What are these little cruchy critters crawling upon the pages of my textbook?


Animal Crackers! Ahhh, the bulk foods section at my grocery store never ceases to amaze me. Life is good.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Zombie Sightings!

Look around at your local college campus this week and you'll see zombies. Loads of them. Here at JMU there are approximately 18,000, and their numbers are multiplying faster than you can say "skim triple venti caramel machiatto, no whip, extra caramel" at Starbucks. Students are running around doped up on their Adderal and caffiene, holed up in the library for 24 hours straight and they look like they might pass out at any second.

Ah, yes. The Dreaded Finals Week. Well, technically it's not even finals week yet. Its still the week before finals week, also known as Hell Week in which you have 10-20 page papers, case studies, research projects and presentations due and then the next week you have 5 (or more) final exams for which you really need to study but don't have the time because you're too busy working on other things for other classes.

Well, I have a secret to beating that Hell Week. Food.

Brain Food. Delicious meals that will tide you over well into your late-night study session. Sweet treats that bring a smile to your face when all you can think about is how many hours you've spent in the Stacks. For me, the act of cooking itself is such a destressor, I can't imagine trying to get through finals week without a steady supply of super-food muffins, delicious and not-so-healthy sugary cupcakes, cookies, and healthy snacks.

This week, I've been on a baking spree. Not many pictures, though, because I was huungry and trying to get work done. I don't know how all of these college food bloggers do it, to be totally honest. I guess I just gotta learn how to be more effective at time management.

So, without further ado, allow me to present my favorite survival foods for finals week.

Lemon Gem Cupcakes from Veganomicon, which were good...but I thought they needed more lemon flavoring. I think next time I'll add more lemon zest, and maybe purchase a bottle of lemon extract to really kick the flavor up a notch. I made my own lemon-y icing which was surprisingly delicious.

Almost Healthy pancakes! Made entirely with whole wheat flour, flax seeds, bananas, and lowfat rice milk. Pretty much the only unhealthy thing about them was the chocolate chips, because they were absolutely necessary. Delissshhh.

Quinoa stir-fry aaand...Facebook? Ugh. I'm such a procrastinator.

But seriously, let's get a closeup of that beautiful veggie dish packed with superfood goodness


Ohhh how delicious does that look? It's just quinoa, lots of veggies, some jalapeƱo (leftover from last year's harvest--I just stick 'em in the freezer until I'm ready to use them!) some canned diced tomatoes and tons of spices (I think I used curry, cumin, tumeric, garlic, onion, and maybe some bay leaf) and then tossed in a few generous squirts of Sirachi sauce.

Anyway, that's all for now. I've gotta go to the library.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Come see how good I look!

That was an Anchorman moment, and if you don't get it than we aren't friends.

Yes, I'm alive. But just barely. The weeks before finals are always the most ridiculous. So I'm hiding away in the library until I finish my papers and whatnots and then I'll make an epic post of epic proportions, so sit tight.

To all you college kids out there: good luck with finals! It's alllmost summer!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

So many sweet things

And now, on to delicious sugary goods that are delicious and...delicious.

You may or may not realize this yet, but I have a huge sweet tooth. Honestly, I could eat dessert for every meal of every day and be the happiest clam on earth. People that don't like dessert confuse me. Also, people that don't like chocolate confuse me, and most importantly--people that don't like peanut butter make me utterly bewildered. I can spoon the stuff down my throat while casually surfing the internet and then look up a half hour later to realize I've eaten half a jar. It's happened. Not that I recommend this, because I always end up with a massive stomach ache later, although I never seem to learn to put away the jar.

I also love me some peanut butter pancakes. They might be one of my favorite foods to eat on a Friday night when I'm all alone in my apartment, taking a break from exam-cramming, as I did this past Friday.


I did try to keep it healthy with a large plate of steamed veggies as well...and please ignore the crispy edges of the pancakes, I wasn't paying attention to the skillet.

Not being satisfied merely with pancakes, I went on to go on a mini cooking baking spree. I made a quarter batch of Buttery Lemon Cookies from VWaV which turned out scrumptiously light and fluffy--despite all the margarine in them. I added some flax seeds in a pathetic attempt to make them a bit healthier. I then made up my own recipe for peanut butter crunch cookies, the crunch being supplemented by some crushed up rice cakes. They were pretty darn good, and I'm quite proud of myself for coming up with the recipe all by myself!


Whenever I'm stressed out about school, I make my way over to the grocery store (or farmer's market depending on the time of day) and browse the aisles, hoping to find the meaning of life in boxed goods. This time, I did. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Dark Chocolate Dreams--also known as Happiness in a Jar.


I have read about this stuff for quite some time, and finally found some in the grocery store. It's from the Peanut Butter Co. and is vegan (duh.), gluten free, trans-fat free, and some other stuff-free. Holllyyyyyy Cannooolliii is this stuff good. So good, in fact that this is what my jar looks like right now
yes, the jar is half empty...or half-full, I suppose. But when it's glorious peanut butter and it's disappearing before your very eyes, the jar is only half-full, trust me.

I might have a full-blown addiction, and you know what? I'm totally okay with it. I ate this on some bread I baked while visiting the 'rents for Easter (they have a bread machine!) and the combo was magically delicious. I generally just eat peanut butter straight from the jar using a knife (don't ask why) but I felt this was a special occasion that required some sort of vehicle for the peanut butter.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Avocado Adventure

...well, I thought it was clever...sort of.

Okay, moving on from my cheesy title, today's adventure was using up a half an avocado left over from last night's enchiladas (don't ask me how that happens, avocados are one of my favorite foods and I never seem to have enough--let alone left overs). While browsing, one of my favorite pastimes/ ways to kill time/ habits, I saw the recipe for Avocado Fudge. At first imagining some sort of sickly green quivering concoction, I was a little hesitant to continue reading the recipe; but I soon realized that this was a real, legitimate chocolate fudge recipe. Ahhh chocolate--the magic word.

Don't let the word "avocado" fool you--this recipe is anything but healthy. There's still enough sugar and margarine in it to clog your arteries right up.

After using my terrible, terrible blender to squish up avocado and margarine (which looked like some sort of horrific Dr. Frankenstein-type of experiment), I went to mix in powdered sugar when I realized that I was all out. So, being a great improvisor, I went back to the not-so-trusty blender and whizzed some regular sugar, hoping to come out with a fine, powdery substance perfect for fudge making. This did not happen, and instead I gave up and used some sort of half-powdered, half-regular sugar combination, giving my fudge the consistency of a gooey sand.

Not one to be detered by sand-textured fudge, I pressed the batter into a plastic container, swirled some peanut butter on top and stuck it in the fridge to chill for a few hours.

Ahhh, sweet delicious, creamy fudge. It is positvely sinful. Still a little grainy, but it is firm and very fudgey. Next time I'll use powdered sugar and will hopefully have better results, but this was still quite good.

And by "quite good" I mean that I've eaten half of it already.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies 'n Cream Ice Cream of Glory and Deliciousness

Last night I had the most insane craving for ice cream, but was too lazy/poor to go to the store to buy some. After stumbling across some glorious-looking recipes at Vegan Ice Cream, I made the command decision to make my own. How hard could it be?

Pretty freakin difficult, considering all it consists of is sugar, creamer, rice milk and vanilla. Actually, the recipe itself was glorious, but my lack of an ice cream maker presented some issues. First I tried the old bag-within-a-bag method favored by 7th grade science teachers everywhere.


For a while it seemed like all was well with my kneading method, until I no longer felt my hands because HEY! Bags of ice are COLD! My ice then proceeded to leak all over my sofa in the middle of watching Horton Hears a Who with my roommates so I transferred it to a bowl and stuck it in the freezer, hoping to speed up the ice-creamification process. After waiting a good oh, 15 minutes or so I went back to the freezer to check on the status of my ice cream aaaand it was pure liquid.


I suddenly came to the realization that I'd have to wait an entire day to eat delicious, creamy, sugary goodness and I really hate waiting. During all of my classes today I couldn't stop thinking about the glory that was awaiting me in my freezer and the first thing I did when I arrived home was to pop that sucker in the microwave for a few seconds and shovel it into my mouth.


I paused the heifering for a hot second to take a picture of it, but it melted super fast so the picture doesn't really do it justice.

Verdict? AMAZING! I can't believe I've never tried making my own ice cream before. There's no way I'm shelling out $4 a pint (or $6 depending on which kind I buy). The waiting sucks, to be sure, but the outcome's totally worth it.

My only suggestion would be to quarter the recipe instead of merely cutting it in half because lord knows I can't control myself.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Very Vegan Virgin Post

First of all, I'd like to make a welcoming speech to all those out in the blogosphere who are both a) crazy enough and b) bored enough to browse through my little blog. I've always wanted to start a food/lifestyle blog and this morning I felt the sudden urge to skip my Irish Literature class and just do it. That probably wasn't the best idea, because thanks to the fact that I have the same professor for another class and my sorely misdiagnosed case of Word Vomit, I told her that I decided to "screw going to class" today. I don't think that earned me any brownie points.

Which brings me to my point. Brownies.

Okay, actually not--but the night is young. Who knows what I'll do given adequate amounts of cocoa powder and flour at 10 PM?

So, anywho...since you're here, you may as well hear a little bit about my life up until now. So sit back, relax, maybe pop open a bottle of bubbly, and hear the tale about how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air.

[disclaimer: this is not going to be all-inclusive because my life is far too exciting to write every aspect of it out in one post. Have no fear, you'll be getting tantalizing tidbits with each and every post.]

I was born into a Navy family and travelled all around the world for the first 7 years of my childhood, after which we packed up 5 girls, 2 parents and 20,000 pounds of luggage (this may or may not be an exaggeration on my mother's part.), and moved to the Bluegrass State of Kentucky. Not ones to stay settled for long, my family then moved once more to Northern Virginia where they've set up their homestead in the wilderness of Suburbia. Three years ago I got the crazy notion that I needed some sort of college-education fancy-schmancypants thing, so I picked up my books and headed down south to a small (but not too small) university which I happen to adore. Deciding what I was going to do once I got there was a little more challenging.

One day I was Undecided, the next a music major (while toying with the idea of Dietetics), became an International Affairs major, decided that was too much economics, became a Political Science major and an English major on the same day, and then dropped the Political Science two semesters later. Which leaves me with an English degree and nothing to show for all the semesters I did as various other majors. What the hell do you do with an English major anyway?

While all of this scholastic turmoil was occuring, something a bit more sinister was brewing in my intestines (ewww gross. first post? what is this girl thinking?!). Yep, first semester of my sophomore year I became bedridden with all sorts of funky stuff and eventually got a diagnosis: Ulcerative Colitis. This led to a few months of agonizing pain while I tried to figure out what foods worked and what foods didn't. I'd been told to avoid "fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains" and a whole slew of other things, so I lived off a steady diet of french fries and milkshakes...not the wisest choice I've ever made.

As a longtime vegetarian, I knew that I would never eat meat to get nutrients into my system but I had to do something to gain back the 20 pounds I lost while in the hospital. I looked into various diets but nothing sat well with me and the vegan lifestyle began to appeal to me more and more. So, yes, I decided to eat a vegan diet to gain weight. At first I thought it would just be a temporary thing until I got healthier, but the more research I did the more I realized that this was the best possible lifestyle for me AND for the planet! And the animals! It's a win-win-win situation.

So now I experiement in the kitchen all the friggy-diggy time, always taking pictures of my latest creations and writing about them in my it is high time I starting publishing my ramblings/food-ings on the interwebss.

And, without further ado, my first post dinner:


I've never made this before, but I saw someone posting about it on a vegan forum I frequent and decided to test it out because I had all of the ingredients on hand. (Did I mention that I'm a poor college student? Because I am. So I don't get to use all those fancy-schmancy ingredients that people with an income get to play with.)

It is also not nearly as healthy as I normally eat. Fried foods? Margarine? These are things I hardly ever use, so don't get too comfy.


Crap, I've really got to take better pictures. They just smelt so damn good that I couldn't wait to try them and therefore took rather less-than-stellar pictures. Apparently I've got a LOT to learn about food blogging...including patientce. Ugh.