Project 365: Days 229-235

Day 229: I ended up in the “backroom” of my CSA and my father-in-law helped make some of these storage containers for squashes and such. That is a lot of spaghetti squash.

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Day 230: Spent the morning making some peach chutney. It was awesome and makes me want to make some indian food.

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Day 231: Wrote a spur of the moment review on these awesome chocolates by Ooh La La Raw Chocolates.

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Day 232: Sneak peak to one of my vegan mofo recipes.

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Day 233: This guy returns to my works, I’m getting better and better at photographing these little buns.

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Day 234: This is the back of a really cool old truck. I don’t know why I love how the back faded.

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Day 235: Trying to use my telephoto lens more. Practiced on these birds at the feeder at work.

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Lemon Basil Pickled Snow Peas

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I love snow peas, but there are really only two ways I eat them- stir-frys and pickled. I know pickling snow peas isn’t a common thing. The reason I bothered to make them was because my husband and I would come home with bags full of peas from our CSA. Although they were tasty, my husband kind-of put his food down at the idea of eating stir-fry dinners all week. So I took the extra snow and snap peas, cleaned and trimmed them and put them in a brine. 

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I wasn’t trying anything fancy or nice, just trying not to waste food. Turned out that my husband loved the pickles with his lunch, and a lot of his co-workers raised their eyebrows. Pickled snow peas? I find that brining them for three days results in soft peas with just enough crunch to them. They are sour but sweet. Really, they are amazing.

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Usually I stay away from “traditional” pickling spices with these guys. I take advantage of the seasonal produce, and use the basil that is in season and garlic scapes. This batch I included some lemon slices, which was a nice addition. With brined pickles you want to keep citruses to a minimum because the acid can overwhelm the naturally occurring bacteria that keep your peas preserved.

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The process is similar to making sauerkraut or kimchi. Salt, water, and bacteria are your main forms of preservation. Basically all you need to do is mix water with salt and add the veggies. The vegetables naturally have the bacteria needed to start fermenting. The cool thing is that each vegetable will have unique strains according the town, state, or country that you live in. After a certain point, there is so much of the good bacteria that it overwhelms the competition. 

So why salt and water? Well this is a bad environment for most bacteria. The salt kills off molds, and the water prevents any oxygen for most bacteria to live off of. If there is mold that grows on the surface, just scrap it off, and the pickles should be fine. But this really hasn’t happened to me outside of really long ferments. 

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As mentioned before, I only ferment these for 3 days then I pop them into the fridge. They will continue to ferment but the cool temperatures slows down the process. You could leave them out at room temperature, but I would recommend shaking the bottle once each day to prevent mold from growing on the top. Plus over time your peas might get mushy from fermentation.

If you have dabbled in other kinds of fermentation like yogurt or kombucha, pickles should be a cinch. They are the safest and easiest form of fermentation. It is kind-of a bummer that it has become more popular in the US to do high acidic jarring over salt brines. These are so simple and easy to make and have great bacteria for your tummy.

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Last note- if you compare the top photo to the bottom photo you will notice a change of color. The top photo is of the peas in the beginning and the last two photos are of the fermented pickles. They get a little more yellow and lack a certain vibrancy.

If you are worried about the food spoiling instead of fermenting, look for bubbles. The bacteria produces gas byproducts so you will see little bubbles get trapped in the veggies. This is also why you never want to fully twist the top on jar unless shaking the bottle up. Continue reading

Vegan Snack Attack #4: Raw Chocolate

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I am fairly certain that Vegan Snack Attack is one of our most neglected “segments” on this blog. Alexa started a post last year in July, featuring chickpea snacks and a raw macaroon/chocolate. Then a month later I posted a review on Califia and some more raw chocolate. Then again in January of this year talking about all the chocolate I got for Christmas. I think you can guess that we like chocolate here.

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Well, those Snack Attacks were pretty random, meaning we weren’t really planning to post them, just were kind-of inspired. And that is kind-of what happened today. Since moving I went to check out a local health food store to see what they had. I found these chocolates being sold. Now I normally wouldn’t shell out $7 for two small truffles/chocolates, but I knew they were raw and made by a local company. I also figured if I featured on the blog that would soften the spending blow.

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The chocolates are made by Ooh La La Raw Chocolat, a fairly new company that is starting up in South Jersey. They currently are selling chocolates online, at Health Haven, Health Haven II, and had been featured in the Cherry Hill Whole Foods Hatchery. Well so far I ate one, and am saving the second for another day.

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I got the chocolate covered caramel with almonds. The package came with two very large chocolates. I was expecting that the center would be more liquid but was rather similar to the chocolate coating only a slightly more crumbly. There were also small chunks of almonds giving a nice crunch. I can easily say this makes me think of truffles, with a chocolate mousse center. Although I loved the flavor, I am not sure “caramel” is the best description.

Personally, I find the price pretty high, but are a perfect high end treat. If you don’t eat chocolate often, then this is a great splurge. I will definitely be asking for these for Valentines Day from my husband, because I like getting fancy chocolate. I stand by the idea that dessert shouldn’t be cheap, and should be held to high quality standards. This chocolate fits the bill.

Project 365: Days 222-228

Day 222: I keep forgetting that when I go to my CSA to pick up my weekly share that there are tons of yummy garlic curing all on the roof rafters. I finally took a photo of them.

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Day 223: Driving home Jon and I saw a huge deer family. There were lots of does and fawns. We tried to pull over to get some shots but it was getting dark and my first time shooting animals with my telephoto lense. Not the best pictures but we all need to start somewhere right?

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Day 224: Toulouse decided to sleep on our comforter that smelled like a moldy basement. I spent all of Monday waiting for her to stop sleeping on it so I could give it a proper wash. Sadly, it still smelled nasty and it got thrown out. Sorry cat!

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Day 225: There were so many cicada skins all over my work.

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Day 226: When walking up to my work, I saw a bunny in the front lawn. I took out my camera trying to get a photo as fast as I could. As she ran away I tried using my continual shot option, and got the same body stance. So it looks like the bunny was running in sync with my camera shutter speed!

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Day 227: Nope not my CSA. My bosses are growing some cashaw squash on the business property. And I will get some this fall!

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Day 228: Went back and got a shot of the vine curly qs!

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Sunday Reading 08-23-15 #50

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My goodness this week was pretty crazy! Everything crept up pretty fast and then it became the weekend. I figured I need to spend more time working at settling down in the house than updating the blog, which is why I haven’t been that good at updating the 365 posts on Saturday anymore. Oh and because of the farm trips. It is peach season here so every single week has involved us going to our CSA, and then going to the orchard. This week we picked so many peaches that we made chutney. And I am thinking that we still have enough for jam. Wow.

Alexa and I are also busy for VEGAN MONTH OF FOOD! They have a list of prompts and we will try and stick to them. We have some good ideas planned, and some not so much. So we will see how it goes. Especially with the 365 idea. I am not sure how I will incorporate that into the posts.

Anyways, I might not be as active the next week or so while we try and get our ducks in a row for Vegan MOFO. We also may or may not continue with the 365/Sunday Reads posts during that month. But I guess only time will tell what will happen.

**Note: Sorry guys that this post originally just have URLs below and no descriptions or links! I have NO idea what WordPress’ problem is right now. It keeps messing things up.

Farm Round Up:

What I got:
1/2 pint sungold tomatoes
1 quart of yellow pear tomatoes
1/2 pint blackberries
1 quart ground cherries with husks
25 lb yellow peaches
2 lb gala apples
2 lb red plums
1 large cantaloupe
1 large yellow watermelon
1/2 lb green beans
8 lbs slicing tomatoes
5 lbs tomatillos
5 1/2 lbs cherry tomatoes
3 lb purple potatoes
1/2 bag of mixed asian stirfry greens
3 asian eggplants
4 green bell peppers
1 bunch of radishes with greens
6 red italia peppers
7 jalapenos
4 poblano peppers

What I’m cooking:
Tomato Sauce + Pasta + Beet Balls
Tomatillo and Berry Crisp
Tomatilo Tofu Tacos
Yogurt, granola, and ground cherry/blackberry bowls
Yellow Watermelon Tequila Cocktails
Side salads with sungold tomatoes and radishes
Eggplant Stir-fry with Green Beans and Cashews
Greek Kale Stuffed Tomatoes from Pure Pleasures
Spaghetti Squash Yakisoba Style
Peach Chutney

Reading for the Week:

Jon and I are planning Halloween already. Gonna watch 6 episodes of Treehouse of Terror on Halloween, and we will be watching plenty of horror films and Goosebumps (hubby’s choice) for the month of October. And since we are in our first home, I said we would buy halloween candy, and showed my husband this PETA list of vegan candy to show him that we won’t get egged. (because that wouldn’t be vegan either)

I always like to put in some film info on this blog, and I love soviet russian media! Especially film! So I have to share this super bizarro propaganda film. It is a mixed media animation that takes place in space. Very surreal. Very cool visually.

So Alexa and I missed Sailor Moon Appreciation Day?

This week we got a watermelon, which is perfect timing because I’ve been craving some after seeing this huge watermelon!

This hot weather is making me swoon over this matcha mint sugar scrub.

I love how Gina breaks down protein in this new post. She makes it pretty simple and easy to figure out how much protein you need in your diet, and gives some great options. And she makes me feel better for giving my husband whole wheat PB&J sandwiches- 15 grams of whole protein? Hell yeah.

Washington Post asks the question- why aren’t conservatives going after fertility clinics if they don’t want fetuses to die?

I know that this isn’t the most vegan all videos. A giant heart…. but I know that sometimes these are the types of things that really get people to connect to other animals. Hopefully it helps put things in perspective for you, humans are the center, or the best.

I love Healthcare Triage because they don’t pussyfoot around. Aaron lays down exercise for what it is- a lot less that what we expect but really beneficial! I am always telling people that you don’t need to run a marathon- just moving. Like to garden? Do that! Cleaning the bathroom? That is actually fairly vigorous activity.

Another Healthcare Triage video that I think is pretty interesting. It goes over what the fuss is about Flibanstein and talks about human trafficking.

My Vegan Restaurant: Espressit

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Espressit

18 Haddon Ave, Haddon Township, NJ 08108
website | facebook

When I first moved to the South Jersey area I remember all my coworkers pushing for me to check out Espressit since they had the best coffee in the area and vegan food. Sadly it was out of the way from where I lived and worked, so when I got there they would sell out of their vegan baked goods. But as the years went by their vegan goods have expanded, and expanded, and expanded! Now I would say this is a must see spot for the vegan community.

This is a coffee shop, so clearly they have vegan options for their drinks. They have vegan smoothies and options of almond or soy milk for lattes. They started offering vegan muffins and vegan snack bars. Their muffins are HUGE! They are a breakfast by themselves, or something to share with a person. There are also vegan cookies, which are also huge, and other seasonal desserts that they rotate.

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Although getting vegan muffins and cookies is pretty cool, I am mostly excited about how they have vegan sandwiches, wraps, and burritos. It use to be a rare occurrence that they would have a sandwich by the time I came in, but I guess the demand has expanded. So there is now several different options to choose from as a vegan. Everything is clearly labeled and easy to figure out what you can eat. I personally love their Indian styled burrito.

It is worth noting that their whole store isn’t vegan or vegetarian. It shouldn’t stop you from popping in and grabbing a bite. Truthfully, they are in a small suburban town where being 100% vegan would probably be hard. But it makes a great spot to meet up with omni friends. You grab a vegan burrito and they can get their chicken wrap.

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Now the menu for vegans have gotten even larger! There is a vegan hot bar! It starts after 4, but I haven’t had the joy of sampling the food. Sadly eating out for dinner during the week isn’t my thing. If their hot food is as good as their burritos and muffins then it will be well worth your time and money. I also point out that I am unsure if they are still doing it- it has been a couple of months since I’ve been there as it is pretty far from my new house.

What really makes Espressit so special is that the owner works hard to be part of the community. There are works of art hanging in the shop that usually rotate every month. There are live performances, movie nights, and more. Whenever I would pop in before work it seemed that there was always people in the area getting together to talk and catch up. This makes the place have such a great vibe, and makes it a great place to meet up and chat with someone (instead of reading a book by yourself). 

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Project 365: Days 215-221

Day 215: Starting to go to the orchard and seeing lots of bugs- more than my CSA. Kind-of weird I guess. But I found this huge guy!

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Day 216: Working on a new burrito recipe.

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Day 217: I got my air plants in the mail

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Day 218: Got my first batch of kombucha started in the new home. They are bottled and sitting out getting carbonated.

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Day 219: Took photos of my shiro plum cocktail.

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Day 220: Apparently Elephant ears bloom and they look like this-

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Day 221: Overflowing pot

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Sunday Reading 08-16-15 #49

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Got an old comforter from the basement, and Toulouse is quick to nap on it.

This week has been pretty busy. Lots of cooking and prepping, and I’ve been working longer hours at the frame shop. Then this weekend I thought I would catch up on posts, but I have a busy k.o. punch- my husband’s birthday. We aren’t the type of people to do lots of things for our birthdays. It is pretty simple, choose a dessert and choose a dinner whether it be eating out or a specific meal. Well, then my in-laws thought it was a good weekend to hand off a bunch of Jon’s stuff they’ve been keeping in their basement. It is helpful, but it feels like taking a step back in the moving process. So we have tons of new stuff to figure out what to do with, and I am not very sentimental so I am looking at half this stuff and thinking “my god this needs to be thrown out.” So this should be interesting to see what Jon doesn’t with half this stuff.

The good news for Alexa is that we have been collecting all the “doubles” of things so she might get some freebies when she moves out her house, like an iron, espresso machine, air conditioner, and maybe a pot or two. Oh and wrestling action figures. Jon apparently kept all his old 90s action figures.

Things at the farm are really going. I think this is the time of the year where I get my biggest bang for my buck. I think I remember last you figuring out that I pay something like $27 each week for my share at the farm. It has gone up since then. But the price of some this produce that’s organic is insane. Jeff, one of the farmers, said he had a friend who sold an organic heirloom tomato that was $15 because it was so big and heavy. Wow. I saw that regular tomatillos were $3 a pound, so that means those tomatillos would of cost me $12 in the supermarket alone! I can’t even begin to think how much I would be paying for all the tomatoes!

Farm Round Up:

What I got:
1 quart sungold tomatoes
1 pint blackberries
2 large cantaloups
1 spaghetti squash
1 lb red plums
1 lb MacIntosh apples
13 lb yellow peaches
oregano, basil, cilanto, mint
4 lbs tomatillos
5 lbs cherry tomatoes
1 quart ground cherries with husks
1 quart green beans
10.5 lbs slicing tomatoes
2 roma tomatoes
2 heads of lettuce
1 eggplant
1 yellow onion
1 bunch of radishes with greens
2 poblano peppers

What I’m cooking:
Tomato Sauce for future cooking
Tomatillo and Berry Crisp
Freezing peaches for storage
Yogurt, granola, and ground cherry/blackberry bowls
Grilled “Cheese” and Tomato Sandwiches
Side salads with sungold tomatoes and radishes
Jungle Curry with Seitan Curry
Sri Lankan Red Lentil Curry (using the roma tomatoes) from Vegan Eats World
Spaghetti Squash Yakisoba Style

Reading for the Week:

Apparently the old living cat is 26 years old?!

I am sure many of you have heard about the Animas river turning yellow. Wall Street Journal has more details.

I really want to read this comic, but it isn’t actually released yet!

I like this guide on how to order vegan at any restaurant. There is a really great break down of what to look for and what to ask. From my experience working in the food industry, if you are nice, the servers will be nice back. Also, keep in mind accendents happens. It might not be your waiters fault so don’t flip out on them.

Apparently there is a book written about why millennials so foodies. I liked this interview on The Atlantic, but I think there are some points missing. One is yes, millennials have less money, but I think that is why we spend money on food. It is a short term reward that might not cost a lot right now. And another point that I think is missing is that there is a lot of political statements being said about the food we eat, and in some ways a revolt against the system we are forced to get jobs in (aka big corp America)

And this one is for any tattoo junkies- a 2,500 tattooed Siberian princess is found. Still reading the article, but the tattoo design is amazing!

Sage & Shiro Plum Smash

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I find it is a little funny how vegans compassion can vary so much. The other night I was talking to my friend Chrissy who is also a vegan. I asked if she still ate honey, and she said yes. That is a little too extreme for her, while I try not to consume it. But later on in the night she said how she wouldn’t eat food sharing a deep-fryer with meats. Me on the other hand, very cool with shared cooking areas with vegan and omni foods. Everyone has their own boundaries.

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Even my recently turned vegan husband and I have totally different views on compassion. A big nasty house fly got stuck in our house and kept bothering us. It bothered me endlessly, and I was waiting till he got old and fat so I could smack it. I mean that fly is a big asshole and had it coming, right? My husband instead says “This fly is annoying as hell, but I don’t want to KILL it. I just want to catch him and release him.” Sure enough he eventually caught the fly and released him back into the wild, making me into a horrible evil person for wanting to hurt a fly.

Roles reverse today. I noticed a few ants on our rug, and told him about it. It suddenly became a battle of the ants for him. He is looking up natural ways to kill the ant and block their passage. And then there is me, feeling a little bit like what is the harm for letting them hangout? Maybe we should just leave bags of sugar outside of the house so they don’t come in ours? Then I would be known in the neighborhood as the crazy ant lady, collecting ants instead of cats.

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But enough bug talk- let’s talk about this awesome drink! I’ve been laying off the hard liquor lately or rather making drinks because of the move. Heck, I technically haven’t even unpacked the cocktail mixer yet. But I got a little excited when I found Sage by Art in the Age at my local liquor store since I’ve been wanting to try it for awhile now. I got a little creative and used glass, espresso tamper, and a hand strainer to make this drink.

I also had a bunch of badly bruised shiro plums from the orchard. They are pretty tasty, but not the pretties things to look at. So I thought this would taste pretty good with Sage, so I made a drink by muddling the plum into the drink. Now I am not sure where this drink sits on the cocktail genealogyā€ˇ tree, but as far as I can tell I used fresh seasonal fruit and smashed it. So it’s a smash in my book. If you want to make this drink more “smash-ish” I would use some sage leaves instead of mint to work with the liquor.

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If you asking which bourbon we used, well I used Knob Creek’s Rye Whiskey but mostly because that is what we had on hand. I probably would use Bulleit Bourbon next time. And if you can’t find any Sage, then I would use a very mild gin or perhaps a homemade infused sage vodka. But honestly there is a really unique flavor going on with Sage so I wouldn’t try and sub it.

Continue reading

My Vegan Restaurant: Sweet Freedom

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Sweet Freedom

1424 South Street Philadelphia, PA 19146
577 haddon Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08108
1039 W. Lancaster Ave Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
website | facebook | instagram | pinterest | twitter

I first came to Sweet Freedom because I friend told me about a vegan bakery in Philadelphia. I went in and got a root beer float cupcake and a oatmeal cookie sandwich. My husband and I scarfed down our snacks and as we left I saw a big “yes, all food is gluten-free.” I had no clue at the time! I shouldn’t of been so surprised that the food was going to be so delicious. I knew before hand that they were on the show Cupcake Wars (season 2 episode 8). In fact Sweet Freedom is the most dietary friendly bakery I’ve ever seem. It is soy-free, corn-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, refined sugar-free, peanut-free, and gluten-free.

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I think I would be lying if all the desserts were totally undetectable of being so allergy friendly. Some foods work better than others, and some are kind-of awesome as their own product. For example their “cake balls” are my favorite. They go by many different names, cake truffles, cake pops, whatever you want. From the non-vegan cake pops I’ve eaten in the past, they weren’t that great, in fact they tasted like undercooked cake in my opinion. But Sweet Freedom’s cake balls aren’t too sweet, and much drier (in a good way). I can safely say that I prefer their cake balls over traditional ones.

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Their biggest selling point is their cupcakes but they dapple in lots of other desserts. They have cobbler bars, cookies, cookie sandwiches, bars, sweet breads, donuts, and even eclairs. All of these desserts can be found at all three of their locations. They started out in Philadelphia, and then expanded into Collingswood New Jersey. At the new location they decided to give juices, smoothies, and ice cream a try. Then they opened another location in Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania where they seem to carry the same things as the Collingswood location.

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So what do I recommend getting? Well, if you want to get a cupcake, I suggest their root beer float. But any of their cupcakes are pretty awesome, though I much prefer their chocolate frosting over their vanilla. I love their facon-bacon topped donuts, and their magic bars. Any of their cake balls are awesome as well.

I would say to skip their juice or smoothie if you go to their Collingswood or Bryn Mawr locations. They have always been hit or miss for me. It isn’t something they make frequently so I found that not all people working there make it with the same consistency. But I do recommend picking up one of their lattes or hot chocolates. They are very rich. I personally ask for half creamer, half coconut milk to make it not too rich.

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And let’s talk about their ice cream! I love this stuff. They don’t serve it as plain ice cream you would scoop into a bowl. They instead make them into ice cream sandwiches and ice cream pops. They are both amazing. They ice cream is fairly light, making a great reward for a hot day. You can focus on the ice cream flavors with the pops, like with their fruit flavors such as peach or strawberry. But their ice cream sandwiches are pretty much to die for. I am unsure how many of their locations offer the ice cream, but I know their Collingswood location does.

Their newest addition to the stores are gluten-free and yeast-free breads. I am not too wild about them, but some loafs would make a great bread option for sandwiches. They also carry some breads that are hard to find vegan versions of like Challah bread. And if you aren’t into the sweets, they usually make a tomato pie once a day that is pretty tasty as well.

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Which location is the best? Well, the Collingswood duh! It has ice cream! Okay, so each place has their own strong points. The Collingswood location is a little nice since it is slower and you can get a little bit more privacy. As mentioned, they have coffee, smoothies, juices, and ice cream. They will also appear at the Collingswood Farmer’s Market. I have sadly not been to the Bryn Mawr location, but from what I understand carried many of the same foods as the Collingswood location.

The Philadelphia location, from what I understand, mostly just does the baked goods. They may offer coffee, and the last time I checked doesn’t do the juice, smoothies, or ice cream. This location is pretty busy and you will probably see a bunch of people coming in and out. There is more seating as this location compared to their Collingswood location.

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Overall I can say this is one of my favorite bakeries. I am aware if I bake a cake at home, it probably will be like more universally accepted as “cake like.” But I am not restricting the type of sugar I use or not excluding gluten. But I think their baked goods are sweet but have something light and addictive about them.

I think overall what I like about their baked goods is that I always feel great afterwards. I never feel “super horrible” after eating a chocolate cake, but I do feel a little sluggish. With Sweet Freedom’s sweets, I barely feel like I ate anything in the same way I feel after eating a piece of fruit. I love buying their agave sodas and a cookie sandwich and sneaking them into the movie theater. Much better than popcorn!

Who would I recommend checking this place out? Health food nuts who want great sweets and people who don’t like things too sweet will love this place! The owner does a great job taking complex flavors from the various flours and making them work with the featured flavor of the dessert. I may love this place, but I know that it isn’t for sugar junkies. If you dream cupcake is light fluffy and half frosting then turn around and bake something at home.