A Hopping-Good Easter Cake & 50-days Coffee-Free

Pardon the title, seems I’ve gotten really punny in English lately, I’m not sure what that’s all about.  Probably because since I’m not currently teaching*, the only English language use I seem to be getting is little blurbs on Twitter and of course chatting up my now 6 year-old (Gasp!).

Though I’m not Catholic, every year I give something up for Lent in memory of my dear, sweet Grams.  This year I decided to give up baking (as I have the past few years), but also, coffee.  Though my consumption habits have waned considerably in the past few years, I was still drinking a very strong “café italien” every morning, and often one after lunch.  I thought it was the time to give that up for a little while, since I was finding myself needing the coffee, rather than enjoying it.

Before my Lenten baking-fast, however, I did give this cake a trial-run :

The cake, my go-to carrot cake recipe from 500 Vegan Recipes, was gussied up with some almond paste and a little creativity.

the only radishes my family will eat…

give peas a chance!

Happy bunnies love cabbages…

I suppose you could do the same thing with fondant, but since my local grocery store has all natural almond paste in green, pink  and white, and they are natural colours, I opted for that.  I’d seen the idea for the sculpted veggies in Marie Clare Idées, I think the February issue, but I don’t remember.

This cute cake was supposed to be my last baked treat for 50 days, but I went and volunteered to bake treats for Guppy’s school bake sale.  They asked for cookies,  and of course because as the only person around who has actually eaten an authentic chocolate chip cookie I was urged to make chocolate chippers. Figures.

They turned out a little less-than-authentic because while not paying attention to what I was purchasing I bought a bag of chocolate chips mixed with shredded coconut – and I wasn’t about to go back to the store for plain chips.  They were extra delicious (made from Isa’s perfect recipe in VCIYCJ) and no one complained, and they were bought up in no time at all.  And yes, I did eat one. Or four.

Giving up coffee was awful, as most anyone who has ever detoxed from the stuff will tell you.  The first two days were actually ok, with me just feeling a little too smug about how easy it was.  Then, the headaches started, or rather, the headache started.  It lasted for about 8 days straight, and nothing really seemed to help ease the pain.  I was also a little bit (very) cranky on days 3 and 4, weepy-cranky actually, but then it was over.  I allowed myself all the tea I wanted, but psychologically it’s not the same deal at all.

The positives of this coffee-free existence were really surprising to me, mostly because I didn’t think that I was drinking enough for there to be a negative impact on my life.

1) More Energy : I found myself full of energy, more than usual.  There was no early-afternoon “I want a nap” feeling which really surprised me, and I actually found that I needed less sleep at night – about 30 minutes less.

2) Faster Recovery & Lower RHR : From a runner’s point of view, I’d always seen coffee as my friend, a silent partner in my training.  I’ve read a fair amount of literature on the matter and felt pretty good about my relationship with coffee, especially my pre-morning run cup.  Turns out, coffee wasn’t such a great friend after all (words I never though I’d type dear readers).  I didn’t make the connection initially, but my RHR (resting heart rate) seemed to be dropping though my training was increasing.  I initially and oh-so-modestly chalked that up to my being in rocking shape.  Then, I noticed that my training HRs were also slightly lower, and began paying even more attention.  It wasn’t until bringing coffee back into my life that I noticed my RHR sneaking up by about 8 bpm.

3) Better Concentration : After the detox stage, I found I was better able to concentrate on any/all things throughout the day.  The mental clarity that accompanied my coffee-free life was a real surprise, especially because I thought coffee actually helped improve concentration.

The negatives of giving up “Joe” were mostly social – everyone seems to get edgy call and even feel judged when faced with questioning their own habits.  The reactions of other people – friends and family members – reminded me of those I see when there are discussions of veganism in the air.  For most folks it’s not big deal, they just shrug their shoulders and move on to the next thing, but for others, there was a bit of defensiveness and disapproval and comments like “well, you can’t give everything up” start flying…

Yes, I did bring coffee back into my life, though I admit it was rather anti-climatic.  I had misty-eyed memories of cafination, the aroma, the “glow” if you will, of my morning cup, but in reality I found myself with an extremely elevated HR and feeling jittery.  I was also frustrated by the return of the afternoon sleepies and mental dullness that seem to accompany them in the early afternoon.  I’m drinking less, and though I do still love coffee, I think I’m much more careful about just how much I consume per day.

Have you ever given up coffee?

*That being said, I am looking for some part-time work kids, so if you need any translation, editorial writing or French/English lessons, do let me know, please?

Cookbook Giveaways Galore!

Just a quickie post to share two great giveaways with you, both of them featuring two of my very favourite vegan cookbooks.  I was lucky enough to be a recipe tester for  both of these books, so believe me when I tell you they Rock with a capital R.

Be sure to head over to visit Diet, Dessert and Dogs where my friend Ricki is giving away a copy of Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman’s 500 Vegan Recipes.  This is the perfect “go-to” vegan cookbook that covers everything from breakfast to dinner, plus desserts and snacks. Love this book. For reals.

Speaking of my friend Ricki, you can win a copy of her vegan dessert cookbook Sweet Freedom by visiting Sally’s blog.   This is no ordinary vegan dessert book people, Sweet Freedom proposes sweet treats for everyone, including those with food sensitivities.

The Fishbowl’s Vegan Menu Plan…

(This photo has nothing to do with anything. I just hate blogging without pictures, so here’s a terrible photo of the delicious chesnut crème I devoured last week.)

I’ve never been much for weekly meal planning. Even less for sharing said meal plan with the entire world. Until now…

Food shopping for me has always been more about what was available, what looked fresh and what my budget would allow. Blessed with a dynamic outdoor market 3 times per week allows me to keep fresh vegetables and fruits on hand, and usually provides the inspiration for the week’s meals.

Another deciding factor is whether I’m recipe testing for anyone. Thanks to Ricki, Kittee, Celine and Joni, I often don’t have to spend much time creating new and different meals : they do the work for me. Thanks, ladies.

I don’t know why, but I didn’t really understand the utility of sharing a weekly meal plan with the public at large. I’m always a bit afraid of commitment, and always wonder if people really follow through with their plans. What if you change your mind? Or better yet, what if your sweetheart surprises you with vegan sushi (hint, hint Monsieur Fish!)?

This week, however, is different.

Here is what I think we’ll be eating. This might change. I’m not signing a contract or anything. It’s just that I’ve come to realize the utility of sharing my meal plan. So often when people decide to go vegan they think it means re-inventing the wheel. The most common question all vegan are asked is “What do you eat?”, as if the idea of taking animal products from your diet meant the end of delicious meals. By publishing what we’ll be eating chez nous*, I may help someone plan some healthy vegan goodness chez eux*.

Monday : Coconut Red Bean Quinoa from Swell, the lovely little food zine from A-K, aka Swell Vegan. Additions : onion and peas, and maybe some greens.

Tuesday : Cholent from Veganomicon. I’ve never had it or made it, and I feel like I’m missing out on something.

Wednesday : It’s Saint Patrick’s Day! Because I love any and all holidays we’ll be celebrating with Irish Soda Bread from The Joy of Vegan Baking and Colcannon from 500 Vegan Recipes. Yum!

Thursday : Hopefully leftovers.

Friday : Lentil Tart with Tahini Crust served with Ginger & Sesame infused Carrot & Cucumber Salad, both from 500 Vegan Recipes.

Saturday : Homemade vegan pizzas! I’m thinking White Pizzas from 500 Vegan Recipes, but will probably get all punk rock and add sautéed eggplant, pine nuts and who knows what else.

Sunday : Brunch will be the Fluffy, Fruited Pancakes from Sweet Freedom. Love them. I’m thinking a mushroom quiche for dinner, but that may change. Some sort of savory tart I think. EDITED TO ADD: Afternoon goûter or snack brought to me by Kittee – woot!

Ta – da! There you go, the Fish Family’s eats for this week.  Until next time, bon appétit everyone!

(I was inspired this week by Libby of The Allergic Kid and Krys of Two Vegan Boys – thanks ladies!)

*our place, their place

Peanut Butter Goodness Galore!

If you’re not a fan of peanutty goodness, this post will probably not interest you very much at all! It’s all about the peanut butter and here you’ll find it stealing the show decked out in some fabulous baked goodness…these glorious recipes will be in Celine and Joni’s upcoming vegan opus, 500 Vegan Recipes. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait!

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Quick Bread

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Quick Bread

This dense & delicious loaf has just a hint of boozy goodness. I added bits of dehydrated bananas (but you could add any dried fruit!), and it was the perfect breakfast with a dollop of jam. This is one of my favourite tester recipes by far! POST UPDATE – CELINE JUST POSTED THIS RECIPE ON HER BLOG! NOW YOU CAN ENJOY THIS AMAZING BREAD!

Peanut Butter Sconey Biscuits

Peanut Butter Sconey-Biscuits

Don’t let the “work-in-progress” name detract from their absolute deliciousness! These are peanut butter goodness incarnate. With just hint of sweet, these are a lovely marriage between a scone and a biscuit. Perfect with a cup of tea for an afternoon knosh or with a smear of jam for breakfast.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Oat Quick Bread

Peanut Butter & Jelly Oat Quick Bread

It’s not the bread’s fault I’m a klutz…despite being a crumbly mess (I tripped when moving it from oven to cooling rack), it was a fun breakfast treat – complete with oats, peanut butter and jelly – you just need to add a cup of joe and you’re set!

My oven is going to mourn the end of recipe testing for 500 Vegan Recipes…it’s going to be a long wait until November! If you just can’t wait, don’t forget to visit the flickr group – but don’t even try it on an empty stomach!

Lenten Confessions : WWRD? (What Would Rita Do?)

cinnamon-sugar-bread-vegan1

Cinnamon-Sugar Loaf, aka Easter Weekend Breakfast

I guess it’s time for confession, which is a rather Catholic thing to do, is it not? I’m not Catholic, but as you know, I decided to give up baking during the Lenten Holiday to honor the memory of my grandmother (a practicing Catholic). I was a very good girl during those long weeks of Lent, and I’m feeling rather proud of myself, too (which somehow negates the good behaviour, right?). Random urges for baking powder biscuits to go with homemade soup? Denied! Cookie cravings from Guppy and Monsieur Fish? Ignored. Thankfully I live in the country of the baguette, so at least fresh, cheap and tasty bread made up for the yeast-ban chez nous.

Besides being a positive way to honor her memory, this little break from baking was a wonderful reminder for me to ignore my “inner three-year-old”. Though I’ve only been baking (or cooking, or preparing food requiring more complex food preparation than slicing bread and boiling water) for a hair under two years, I’ve really taken to it. I relish in the DIY aspect of home food preparation, feeling like an artist, a craftsman and a renegade against the machine of forced consumerism. And it’s tasty. And so much healthier.

cinnamon-sugar-bread-vegan3

Check out that cinnamon-sugar layer!

However, even those of you who like me have but a rudimentary understanding of physics know : energy doesn’t just disappear. Equal and opposite reactions and all that – sound familiar? When I broke my foot/ankle last November, something rather strange began to happen. The time and energy that I so carefully poured into my training had to go somewhere, and it seemed to find its way into the oven. I wasn’t actively aware of this happening initially : for me it was about recipe testing, holiday baking for gift-giving and get-togethers, etc. but as the holidays came to a close I still found myself wanting to bake. Needing to bake.

cinnamon-sugar-bread-vegan2

You can see the cinnamon-sugar layering magic here, too

In retrospect, I believe that baking helped me reclaim a feeling of control I felt I’d lost. I couldn’t control my leg being in a cast or incompetent physical therapists, but I could control proportions of flour to sugar to yeast. Healing times eluded me, but baking times became as natural as my running rhythm.

I’m thankful that I didn’t chose a more self-destructive outlet for that pent-up energy (says the former smoker), but I felt like it was time to gently step away from the oven mitts and remember what brought me to wanting to bake in the first place : a desire to create healthful deliciousness for my family and friends.

molasses-bar-vegan

Oh delicious Molasses Bar, just unwrapped and ready to be eaten!

Lent technically ended on Easter Sunday, but I admit to ending my Lenten baking fast nearly 5 days prior. That being said, I don’t feel guilty or ashamed about breaking out the cupcake tins. Guppy was having a party at school, and I was having Spring parties for two of my children’s English classes. The idea of purchasing pre-made baked goods for these events briefly flashed before my mind – and then I just laughed out loud as I often do when I think about my Grandmother, known as Rita Pita. I found myself asking the question : WWRD*?

whole-wheat-quickish-bread

Whole Wheat “Quickish” Bread with a slab of Chocolate-Agave Frosting.

Just typing the words makes me smile, because I knew Rita Pita, and I know how ridiculous she would think my not baking would be. Don’t get me wrong, she’s looking at me from somewhere and is touched that I honored Lent for her (and secretly feeling puffed-up for all this blog attention), but she was the last person on earth who would condone calorie restriction, or not eating sweets, in her name. She would have scolded me for not baking, probably asked to “just lick the spoon” (a no-no as she was a long-time diabetic and fought against weight problems her entire life) and a cupcake making we would have gone.

So I made. I left the camera in the other room, and decided to only make enough for the parties, meaning for Guppy’s school and for my students. If you’re still deciding if I “sinned”, do weigh in the fact that I made them, and taught/hosted the parties, with a 38.5c fever, so it’s like it was a big punishment anyway (ha!).

As the drugs began taking effect, I decided that it was the long weekend, and I wanted to make something fun and tasty for us so on Good Friday I made the Cinnamon-Sugar Loaf. And it was Good. I also made some Molasses bars that I wrapped up and froze to use as quick breakfasts for me. The last of the holy trinity of baking was the “Quickish” Whole Wheat bread that was so easy to throw together and bake it felt sinful. Just be be sure I made up a batch of Chocolate Agave Frosting, using hazelnut flavouring and we slathered this “faux-Nutella” all over that wholesome Whole Wheat loaf. So good to be bad.

In case you haven’t guessed, the Cinnamon-Sugar Loaf, Molasses Bars, Whole Wheat “Quickish” Bread and the Chocolate Agave Frosting are indeed all recipes which you’ll find in the up-coming 500 Vegan Recipes, to be released in less than a year! Testing is almost done, and now I shall find myself also asking WWSE? What will Shellyfish eat?

Oh the extetentialist ponderings of the universe…

(What would Rita do for those of you lucky enough to have dodged this little phrase which to me was the epitome of the hypocrite’s guide to religious marketing “What would Jesus do?”)*

What did you eat over the holiday weekend?

get-well-flowers

No, not flowers! These were actually my little wild flower “feel better soon” bouquet Guppy picked with Monsieur Fish on Sunday. They did make me feel better.

I hope you had a lovely weekend (long weekend for some of us) whether you were celebrating with friends and family or simply celebrating friends and family (as we were). I have some Lenten Confessions (yes, that means baking!) coming for you in my next post, but for now, I’d like to share the vegan goodness this weekend had to offer!

As a child, our traditional Easter weekend meant a visit from the Spring Fertility Rabbit (aka Easter Bunny), and a gigantic family dinner comprised of ham, potatoes and cabbage salad (and other random things that no one could eat for the glut of chocolate but a few hours before…).

We were almost always with my grandparents, divorced since before my birth, but somehow always together for the holidays – a forced reconciliation benefiting everyone involved. In fact, I was at least 5 years old before I really understood that my grandparents had witnessed a mammoth shift in their marital status, that they had been married, but no longer were. I had no idea how much bending-over-backwards was happening, the adults accommodating their very real and still fresh wounds. Somehow their living apart, but being together for the key moments of the year, when we made the journey North to spend the holidays tas a family, just seemed normal. Only now as an adult can I really appreciate just how much my grandparents loved my parents and my sibs and I. It was by no means a masquerade, but they put aside their differences and were able to enjoy the moments which became some of the most important memories of my lifetime. Way to go, Rita and Joe!

My Papa Joe was in charge of the cabbage salad. He would sit at the dining room table and carve the thinnest of slices before adding vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. I have some of the most beautiful memories of him at that table, the sunshine coming in from behind him, giving his tall frame an even more impressive aura. He always wore a suit and a bow tie, without exception, and he smelled like tobacco and peppermint.

I loved the family gathering, the sugar high, the gifts… but as for the dinner…I liked the cabbage salad, and that was about it.

black-bean-grillers

Enough reminiscing, what did you eat for Easter dinner? What do you mean you didn’t have veggie burgers? Well, you should have, because they were darn tasty! These just happen to be the Black Bean Grillers from the much-anticipated 500 Vegan Recipes Cookbook by Joni & Celine. I know, I’m driving you crazy, but the testing is almost done, and they are just so good and easy to throw together at the last minute… I feel morally obliged to tell you about their awesomeness.

And what could possibly go better with burgers? More comfort food of course!

soppy-gravy-vegan

Here we have some steamed broccoli (which I think is Guppy’s very favourite non-fruit food) and rosemary mashed potatoes smothered in “Soppy Gravy”, a delicious mushroom-gravy with a kick, also soon to be featured in 500 Vegan Recipes. Considering that mashed potatoes have been one of my favourite foods since my introduction to solids, I fancy myself a bit of a gravy-expert. Not gravy making expert, mind you, but official gravy tester would be lovely on my CV next to my diplomas and work experience. I have made many a mushroom gravy in my day, but this one had a little somethin’ somethin’ that made me say wow!*

My modest little point-and-shoot doesn’t do the test recipes of 500 Vegan Recipes justice, so do scoot over to visit the 500 Vegan Recipes Flickr group and see what real photographers can do. For now, I’ll stick to eating taters and gravy.

Thanks for all the sweetness and advice on my respiratory woes. I’m still on a cortisone-high, but should feeling better soon. I will try to get past my loath for doctor visits and get to the bottom of this, and need to track down one of those nettie-nettle potty deals. It’s a little crazy how many women seem to have this random surge of sinus infections entering into their 30s…humm…Internet research calling my name…

*I did indeed say “Wow”.

“Swell” friends : More 60-Day Project Love & Yummies & thank heavens for good medical coverage.

My mother just keeps reveling in the birthday love – thanks to you! A hearty muchas gracias go out to the lovely and talented Robin of Robin in Reality and to everyone’s favourite Swell Vegan, A-K!

Robin sent my mother a gorgeous handmade scarf, huckleberry tea from her native Montana and a beautiful card. Cookzine writer A-K sent her the most delectible homemade raw goodies! And have you seen how cute she looks showing off her new Swell cookzine? She’s being added to the Vegan-Cutie Hall Of Fame fo sho! She’s selling these little babies for only 3USD! 5USD for we freaky European kids. I can’t wait to make every one of those recipes – and eat it all – that Spicy Tahini Stew sounds really good right now…

maple-flax-bread

And now for the Yummies! This Maple Flax Loaf was a pre-Lenten test recipe for 500 Vegan Recipes. So simple and so delicious. Miam! It was as delicious as it was beautiful!

quince-chewies-cookies

I know the blogger police should arrest me for such a terrible flashy picture, but I’d get myself off the hook when I offered the coppers one of these heavenly Quince Chewies Cookies. If you’re at all familiar with Celine’s blog, than you know she is the cookie queen, and these babies will not disappoint! (Hey, I took the darn photo back in February when it was dark outside at 4pm!). 500 Vegan Recipes is of course going to be rocking your tastebuds! Don’t forget to sneak a peak at the Flickr Pool for eye-candy galore!

I know that I’m oh-so-behind on blog reading and emails. I’m sorry, kids, but after trying to fight a stupid sinus infection without drugs (because I hate the drugs!), I finally caved and sought medical treatment (mostly because I couldn’t fight anymore). Thanks to my tenacity stubbornness I also won two free cases of bronchitis and laryngitis. Yippie!

Would you believe that up until Spring of 2007 (when I moved to this humidisville) I’d never had a sinus infection in my life? I seem to be getting the infection of the century once in the Autumn and once in the Spring. I do live in a very humid area – near the largest forest in France (and one of the largest in Europe), but still! 800mg of antibiotics every morning plus cortisone (yuck – Shellyfish no likey) plus a bunch of other meds should be making me feel better soon. I’d actually be in bed, I want to be in bed, but the cortisone has me wired like a crazy vegan warriorfish and though my eyes and brain are very tired, I can’t sit still.

I do need to say, however, that I am so thankful for our medical system here in France. My generalist was out Wednesday so I called the “traveling doctors” and though it took a few hours, I had a doctor in my home at 11 p.m. He even gave me cortisone right then to help ease my ickyness until morning when I could get to the pharmacy. Oh, and it cost 23E, 22 of which will be reimbursed by Social Security. Next morning at the pharmacy everything was covered, and I didn’t need to pay a centime.

While it’s true that people in larger cities or who chose to go to private clinics may have a slight edge, health care is not considered a “product” or a “privilege” here – it is the basic right of every human being. My little family has had some financial close-calls this year, but never once have we had to “budget” a doctor visit or wait before refilling a prescription – an absurd reality I know so many families face.

I just think that kicks ass.

I’m done now.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Hummus (no, not together, sillies!)

Then again, hummus and pancakes could be good together…I mean, a pita isn’t that different from a pancake, right?

Ok, anyway…before I get to the food, I need to send huge thanks to three amazing bloggers and friends : Celine of Have Cake, Will Travel, Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs and Diann of Eat’n Veg’n Vegan Food & Recipes. These three amazing ladies are participating in The 60-Day Project of birthday gifts for my mum, and their goodies have arrived safely chez elle (to her house). I spoke with Mammafish Sunday morning and she was giddy with birthday delight : Celine’s gift arrived on her actual birthday (what timing!), and Ricki‘s and Diann’s packages arrived the following day and she got to open them at her birthday dinner! She just loved everything and was marveling at your thoughtfulness and talent! You are all very appreciated! Merci!!!

chocolate-chip-pancakes

I was feeling the need for some comfort food, and pancake brunch on Sunday is as good an excuse as any. I’ve made Chocolate Chip Pancakes before, but they often ended up burnt, or a little too done. These delicious pannycakes were perfect: fluffy and ever-so-chocolaty, and you’ll find the recipe in the upcoming 500 Vegan Recipes. You could smother them with jam or even peanut butter, but we went with maple syrup, of course…
chocolate-chip-pancakes1

Another test recipe which is more than worth mentioning is the Traditional Hummus :

traditional-hummus

I tend to fancy myself as a bit of a hummus snob, and seem to always have some freshly made in the fridge, but I have a confession to make kids : I have never, ever, had such creamy and silky smooth hummus. Ever. And it’s easy-peasy. So there. I don’t know what I did to get to be a tester for 500 Vegan Recipes, but I’m one lucky Shellyfish! I recognize the above photo has the personality of boiled potatoes, so how about this one:

thisone

And to end this post on a happy note I’d like to share this gem, in honor of National Poetry Month (in the U.S.). This is one of my favourite poems. Washington Post writer Richard Thompson compiled some classic “Bushisms” and penned this oeuvre back in 2002 (I think). I am incapable of reading this poem without laughing out loud.

Make The Pie Higher

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It’s a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential mental losses.
Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked? They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our
wings take dream. Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that the human and the fish can coexist! Now got knock down the tollbooth and have a happy Sunday.

60-Day Project Update & Carmelized Onion and Potato Tart on Focaccia Crust

MAMMA FISH – AKA MY MUM – DO NOT READ THIS POST! AVERT YOUR EYES!!

I am just blown away by your amazing response to the 60-Day Project! Bianca said it well – we are a bit of a (blogging) family, and I am sincerely moved by your outpouring of interest and enthusiasm! I never dreamed this little idea would grow into such an adventure (Ricki – how did you know!). I don’t want to get overly sentimental here, but I am so energized by all this rockin’ Female Solidarity! Women from all over the globe (literally) getting together and getting it done! Right on, my Sisters! Where will we go from here? We could become the Undercover Global Birthday Squad – bringing birthday cheer to women everywhere! (I’m having a Roise the Riveter moment here…Sorry).

d796rosie-the-riveter-posters1

This is going to be one of the best birthdays ever for my mother and I am so excited about getting things underway! I had no idea how many of you would be interested in participating, and I must admit I’m a little overwhelmed by your response! I’m not sure how I’m going to manage to make and send off little gifts to everyone – there are so many of you! I’ll be getting an email off to all the participants this weekend with the important details so we can get started – I don’t want to talk too much more about this here lest the secret be spoiled! Weeeee!

And now, a little food, because we can’t make birthday history with our tummies empty now can we?

carmelized-onion-and-potato-tart-on-focaccia-crust

Hummm… here we have Caramelized Onion and Potato Tart on Focaccia. I wish I had a better picture, but both times I made this delectable dish it disappeared so fast I had a tough time snapping a picture! This is indeed a pre-Lent dinner, my baking fast is holding true, JFTR (just for the record).

I feel a little guilty tempting you with these succulent test recipes from the upcoming 500 Vegan Recipes, the stellar cookbook collaboration between Celine and Joni. The frustration you must feel not being able to make such yummies must be terrible! However, if you’re a sucker for punishment, do check out the 500 Vegan Recipes Flickr Group for more tempting deliciousness. You can marvel at the amazing food photography of the muy talented Celine! And hey! 500 Vegan Recipes is now available for pre-order, which may help you feel pro-active in appeasing your outrageous cravings!

I’ll test your recipe, baby… Peanut Butter Crackers & Peanut Butter and Jam Granola

cutting-out-crackers

making-eyes

with-jam-please

We had a lovely time making, and then eating, these Peanut Butter Crackers. Oh yes, that is indeed jam sandwiched between two crackers. I’ve said it before : I’m punk rock like that. These are the most amazing PB Crackers I’ve ever had. Ever. So easy to make, and even easier to eat. Do you recognize Celine’s genius here, kids? You should, because this is indeed a test recipe for 500 Vegan Recipes. Yup.

The only difficult thing about this adventure? Deciding if these were pigs or bears. We went with pigs, but I did explain to Guppy that they are genetic cousins. It’s true. I don’t suggest you eat either, unless they are crackers in disguise. Obviously.

granola

This is Peanut Butter and Jam Granola. Can granola be a food group? I think it was the easiest granola I’ve ever made. Ever. Oh good grief, it was amazing. Just can’t get enough of it. You will want to marry Celine after you make this. Just warning you. There is much more delicious-looking food p*rn at the 500 Vegan Recipes Flickr Group if you just can’t get enough of the goodness here!

What you’re seeing here are some previously-prepared yummies. While I’m not Catholic, I actually gave up baking for Lent. Yep, no cupcakes here kids. I’ve also celebrated Ramadan and other such religious observances. I’m an equal-opportunity tester-outer. I think it’s important to remember what it’s like to say no to our inner three year olds from time to time, and to live mindfully of those who want for food and other necessities. Helps to keep it real. I’ll grant you it sounds a bit bourgeoise to say giving up baked goods will help me connect with those in need, but I’d like to think that it’s an important symbol : letting of of the unnecessary. For me anyway.

I was thinking about the yummies my Grams used to make for us when we were little, and how difficult it probably was for her because she wasn’t allowed to have any of the goodies, much to the chagrin of her well-developed sweet-tooth. She was diabetic, and had other health problems, but she didn’t ever complain about anything. Ever. I admire her so much, because despite going through some seriously tough times, she was one of the most cheerful, most hopeful people I’ve ever known.

She’s gone now, and I really miss her. She was indeed Catholic, and I wanted to dedicate this Lenten celebration to her memory. She was funny, too. She actually died of a massive stroke – on stage, telling a joke while introducing her band members – what a classy way to go, dressed to the nines and with an audience. She used to joke that she hoped she would know when she was “going” because she wanted to eat one pound of fudge. I hope she got her wish, though I’m not sure it was the case.

So, there you go. There will still be some baked goodies showing up here because I’ve got some yummies stocked up for just such an occasion. Don’t worry. :)