1. vegan mashed potatoes

    November 27, 2016 by Angie

    I am really bad at making mashed potatoes. I get horrified by the ingredients in the internet’s favorite recipes: bucket of sour cream, 19 sticks of butter, multiple cups of heavy cream, gallons of whole milk. I feel guilty enough about the potatoes. I have tried several healthier versions over the years and they have all sucked.

    This year I based my attempt on a vegan recipe that pledges to be “the creamiest vegan mashed potatoes” from the blog My California Roots. They were cold by the time I got to eat them on Thanksgiving Day, but Robbie and I loved the leftovers. I would make and eat these again and again. I think next year I need to explore a vegan gravy to go on top.

    Thanksgiving 2016

    There they are with apple and onion stuffing, cranberry sauce (I used brown sugar this year – yum), tofu vegetable pot pie, and cheddar bay biscuits. Mom’s sweet potato casserole and Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes were dessert.

    I changed things around a little so here is what I did.

    Ingredients

    1 cup water
    1/2 cup raw cashews
    2.5 lbs gold potatoes
    4 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
    2 tablespoons (probably more like 5, but who’s counting?) minced garlic
    salt and pepper to taste

    Instructions

    1. Wash, peel, and chop the potatoes.
    2. Submerge the potatoes in water in a large pot.
    3. Microwave a cup of water in a bowl.
    4. Add the half cup of cashews to the boiling water. Set aside for at least half an hour.
    5. When it’s getting closer to meal time, boil the potatoes in the pot for about thirty minutes or until the potato chunks are tender when poked with a fork.
    6. While the potatoes are cooking, make the cashew cream by blending the water and cashews together. I used my crappy food processor and it worked out fine.
    7. Drain the potatoes.
    8. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher. Add the cashew cream, Earth Balance, garlic, salt, and pepper.
    9. Using a hand mixer, blend everything together for as little time as you can while still getting the lumpy to smooth ratio you like for your mashed potato consistency.
    10. Eat them right now! They get cold in a hurry.

  2. mount dora, fl

    November 2, 2016 by Angie

    My parents have been telling us about Mount Dora for a couple of years now. It has a really cute, quaint downtown and it’s very dog friendly. We finally booked a weekend there at Tremain Street Cottages. My parents are right. We did like it, it is extremely dog friendly, and we didn’t have to drive at all while were there. Everything you’d want to see and do and eat and drink is in a concentrated area around downtown.

    Headed towards downtown Mount Dora

    Walking towards downtown from our cottage

    We got into town about lunchtime so we went straight to Mellow Mushroom. It has a pretty, covered patio for eating outside with your dog. Our server brought Sookie water and she was happy there.

    The pizza and drinks were really good. It’s probably the second best Mellow Mushroom we’ve been to (after the one in Brandon, FL) and we’ve been to many.

    Slice of "Robgeleen": spinach, garlic, tomato, and half artichoke hearts on thin crust

    Slice of “Robgeleen”: spinach, garlic, tomato, and half artichoke hearts on thin crust

    Robbie has strange feelings for this pizza.

    Robbie has strange feelings for this pizza.

    After our wonderful pizza and drinks in the shade, we checked in to our dog friendly room, the Nantucket, at the Tremain Street Cottages.

    This bed is too big. I appreciated the handmade quilt and matching pillows.

    Another view of the main room

    Our little kitchen

    Small room in the back with a little couch and a dresser

    One of two patios for guests

    The Wine Den was high on our list of places to visit. They have some beers in bottles and many, many wines. Surprisingly, they allow dogs inside! There were three other dogs inside while we were there. One dog parent gave Sookie a special dog treat. It’s a really cute, although small, shop and bar. It’s worth the visit.

    Sookie is all tongue at the Wine Den

    One Flight Up is another place I did not want to miss. They allow dogs on their balcony which has the best view in town.

    One Flight Up

    The balcony facing Lake Dora

    The balcony overlooking one of the main streets

    The other side

    We had the hummus platter and Pinot Noir. They boast the best pour in town and I think they’re correct on that.

    We stopped by Pisces Rising’s third annual Halloween block party, Mayhem in Mount Dora. Our drinks were meh and it was not much of a party. It was more for families. There were some decent costumes.

    Mayhem in Mount Dora

    There is a band under the lights.

    Robbie required potatoes so we sat on the front patio with Sookie at the Bavarian Haus. We talked with our dog loving server while eating our double order of pomme frites. She brought Sookie water and two slices of cheese. What a lucky dog!

    Cody’s on Fourth was our breakfast place Sunday morning. They have three or four tables in front of the restaurant where dogs are allowed. Robbie had one of the quiches of the day (broccoli and cheddar) and I had an everything bagel, egg, and Swiss cheese sandwich. Both were very good. The quiche was really pricy for the size (over $10) and they only had decaf espresso left (is that a thing?), but the food was so good we’d eat there again.

    We walked down to the Sunday Village Market by Lake Dora. There were only a few booths and we didn’t buy anything. We liked looking at the lake though.

    Robbie and Sookie at Lake Dora

    Robbie and Sookie being aware of alligators and snakes

    Lake Dora

    Lake Dora

    We also learned that a large, well-kept facility called the Mount Dora Lawn Bowling Club exists. Also, lawn bowling exists.

    Mount Dora Lawn Bowling

    It's a thing

    Lawn bowling info

    Dropping knowledge.

    I was craving coffee after the decaf espresso situation at breakfast so I stopped in at the Village Coffee Pot. It was shockingly horrible. They were out of soy milk which is when I should have run away. Then I was told the steaming device was broken. I was handed a $5 undrinkable iced latte. I took two sips and threw it away. I don’t know how it’s possible to make espresso mixed with 2% milk and ice taste like cold dirt, but the Village Coffee Pot does it. I later saw their sign on the street corner read “expresso”…ugh.

    PizzAmoré was our favorite place. Beautiful, outdoor seating with shade. Great service. The garlic knots were huge and so garlicky. The pizza and drinks were very good too.

    Outside at PizzAmore

    A little garden near the outdoor seating

    Sookie at PizzAmore

    Sookie found some shade under the table

    Robbie at PizzAmore

    IPA and wine waiting on pizza

    Sookie was the star of the party on the street side patio outside Las Palmas Cuban Restaurant. Robbie and I enjoyed 2 for 1 drinks and mariquitas while Sookie made best friends with everyone who walked by. A French family was particularly happy to pet her at length. They gave her a little Eiffel Tower to wear on her Halloween collar.

    French Sookie

    French Sookie

    On our way back to our cottage, we ran into a couple from Vero Beach who go to my mom’s church. For a small town, Vero Beach people are everywhere. We left Sookie to rest in her crate with her dinner while went out to sit indoors at two more bars.

    The Lost Parrot is a Key West style bar run by awesome staff and filled with interesting locals. We had a good time there and would go again. After that we sat inside at Pisces Rising at the bar. The drinks were decent. We didn’t eat or interact with anybody so that’s all I have to say about that.

    We finished up our stay with breakfast at the Highland Street Cafe. It’s a really homey place decorated with kitschy Scottie dog everything. We both got omelets, but I made the correct choice of hash browns over home fries. Man, those hash browns were great. The staff were very sweet. There was nowhere for Sookie to sit so she had to rest in her crate at the cottage, but 10/10 anyway.


  3. Hello Kitty tooth fairy pillow

    October 18, 2016 by Angie

    Our niece Mia has two loose teeth! I was planning to give her this Hello Kitty tooth fairy pillow on her sixth birthday but I think the tooth fairy will need to make a visit before then. She requested a Hello Kitty theme after her brother got a Star Wars pillow.

    Hello Kitty tooth fairy pillow

    Tooth fairy pillow with “M” applique on the pocket

    The “M” and backing fabric are a pinkish-red solid fabric I bought to try to match the colors in the Hello Kitty fabric. The lined pocket is made from white scrap fabric. I used black thread throughout.

    has a pocket

    Lined pocket for tooth storage

    envelope back

    Envelope back (for easy washing) with zig zag stitched hems

    I’ll be giving the pillow to Mia this weekend. Let’s hope she likes it!


  4. SunButter cups

    September 26, 2016 by Angie

    I’ve never known the joy of a Reese’s peanut butter cup on account of my severe allergy. I hear they’re delicious but I ran a cost-benefit analysis and decided to steer clear. Until NOW! Kind of.
    Sunbutter cups

    I saw a video recipe for three ingredient peanut butter cups. I made the recipe with SunButter, which is very tasty sunflower seed butter, instead. The jar says you can substitute it one for one for peanut butter in recipes.

    Yield: about 12 mini muffin cups

    Ingredients

    1 and a 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
    1/2 cup SunButter
    3 tablespoons powdered sugar

    Directions

    1. Place liners in a muffin tin. I used a mini muffin tin and mini liners. It made 11 cups.

    2. Melt the chocolate chips in a bowl in the microwave. I cooked for 30 seconds, stirred, and repeated that two more times.

    3. Pour the SunButter into another bowl. Stir the powdered sugar into the SunButter until it’s mixed in.

    4. Fill the muffin liners a little over a third of the way with melted chocolate. Top with a small spoonful of the SunButter mixture. Top that with enough melted chocolate to cover the SunButter and fill the liner almost to the top.

    5. Refrigerate overnight.

    6. Peel the liner off and experience anaphylaxis-free, chocolatey, nutty yumminess. Store them in the refrigerator.

    Sookie asks please

    Verdict: rich and delicious! I’ve been missing out!

    Robbie says these are much better than the real thing, but he also says SunButter doesn’t taste like peanut butter. He hates peanut butter and likes SunButter so there’s a definite bias here. I’m going to seek out more taste testers and report back.

    I started with a cup of milk chocolate chips based on the video recipe and needed to melt more. I upped it to 1 and a 1/4 cups but still had some of the SunButter mixture left over. I think 1 and a 1/2 cups would work best and would probably be enough to yield an even dozen cups.


  5. strawberry mojito

    August 23, 2016 by Angie

    Life gave me mint so I made mojitos. Robbie got me an AeroGarden for my birthday. We finally set it up in June and in a few weeks I had so much mint growing in my kitchen! I love fancy drinks with muddled fruit in them, particularly strawberries, so I made a strawberry mojito in addition to a standard one.

    strawberry mojito

    Strawberry Mojito

    Ingredients

    white rum (I used Bacardi Superior.)
    fresh mint leaves
    strawberries
    fresh lime juice
    simple syrup (Make your own! There’s a recipe below.)
    club soda
    ice cubes

    Instructions

    I don’t own a shaker, strainer, or muddling gear. This is how I made a mojito in my kitchen without real barware.

    1. Make the simple syrup by boiling 1 cup of water and 1 cup sugar in a small pot. Stir and cook until the sugar is no longer visible. Set aside to cool. Once it’s cooled down a bit, put it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
    2. Wash and chop a handful of strawberries.
    3. Wash mint sprigs. You’ll want some individual mint leaves for muddling and one giant, intact sprig for garnishing.
    4. Muddle the strawberries and the individual mint leaves together. I did this in a rocks glass with a spoon.
    5. Fill a glass about 3/4 with ice cubes. Add a generous shot of rum, a half shot of simple syrup, a half shot of club soda, and the juice of half of a lime. Stir.
    6. Add in the muddled strawberries and mint. Stir to combine.
    7. Garnish with the big mint sprig (and a lime wedge).

     

    traditional mojito

    Standard Mojito

    For the standard mojito, I did everything the same except for leaving out the strawberries. Pretty straight forward!

    I kept the simple syrup in a travel coffee mug with a tight lid for about two weeks in the refrigerator. I was able to make a lot of Old Fashioneds for Robbie and our guests using that. I definitely recommend taking the time to make simple syrup if you’re going to be making several mojitos or other drinks that call for it.


  6. crunchy tofu tacos

    July 28, 2016 by Angie

    I feel like a fancy chef, y’all! This recipe is easy and so delicious but it looks like something from a cooking show. At least it did in person – I hope the photos do the tacos justice. It’s a flour tortilla topped with a sweetened carrot slaw, pan-fried tofu, toasted cashews, vegan sriracha mayo, and green onions.

    crunchy tofu taco!

    Mmm, sriracha mayo.

    I was looking through the Cooking Light website for new recipes and found this one for supercrunch tacos. I followed it pretty closely except for cheating a bit with the carrot slaw. I used a bag of pre-cut julienned carrots, broccoli stalks, and cabbage instead. I also used flour tortillas and skipped heating them. I will do the two damp paper towels in the microwave trick the next time I make this because warm tortillas would make everything nicer.

    an aerial view

    Two thumbs up from both halves of Robgeleen!


  7. blueberry pie

    July 10, 2016 by Angie

    My parents and my niece came over for an early Independence Day hang on Saturday. I made mozzarella, cherry tomato, and balsamic vinegar appetizer and BBQ tofu and vegetables, black beans, and grilled corn on the cob for the main dinner. Dessert was this blueberry cream cheese pie I kinda invented.

    a blueberry pie


    Ingredients

    9″ prepared graham cracker pie crust
    12 oz light soft cream cheese
    1 cup confectioner’s sugar
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 pint fresh blueberries

    Sookie investigates the blueberry pie

    Sookie has blueberry and cheese interests.

    Instructions

    1. Put the cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla in a bowl. Stir it around so that the confectioner’s sugar doesn’t explode on you when you start to use the mixer.

    2. Use a mixer to beat the mixture until fully combined and a little fluffy.

    3. Spoon the cream cheese mixture into the prepared pie crust. Use a spoon to level off the top.

    4. Wash the pint of blueberries and remove any stems.

    5. Arrange the blueberries over the cream cheese mixture.

    6. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve it.

    Blueberry pie sliced

    The easy to delicious ratio is in your favor.


  8. sphere charm pack baby quilt

    June 12, 2016 by Angie

    I finished my seventh quilt for my friend’s adorable, new baby boy. She’s a quilter too!

    Robbie holds up the completed quilt

    Robbie held the finished quilt up for this photo. Thanks, Robbie!

    I’d been holding on to the charm pack I used for a while. It’s Sphere by Moda. The fabrics are really modern and I thought they would be great for a gender neutral or boy baby quilt. I’ve been following Elizabeth Hartman’s quilting blog, Oh Fransson, since before I started quilting. I used her free charm pack quilt pattern I saw there.

    Quilt Stats

    Finished size: Approximately 33″ x 40″
    Quilt top fabrics: Moda Sphere charm pack and solid gray fabric (either Kona or Moda – I have tons of both)
    Quilt backing: Solid blue fabric from Keep Me in Stitches quilt shop in Tampa
    Binding fabric: Solid white fabric leftover from another project
    Batting: Warm & White
    Quilting: Dense, horizontal straight line quilting with the walking foot
    Label: Forthcoming!

    sewn into strips

     25 whole squares and 13 half squares sewn together to make the charm square strips

    Sookie hangs out

    Sookie likes to hang out with me in the new sewing room.

    completed top

     The charm strips sewn to the solid gray strips

    squared up quilt top

     Completed quilt top after squaring it up

    about to baste the quilt sandwich

    The backing fabric for this one was extra difficult. I finally got it taped down to the tile without wrinkles.

    peek at the back

    The completed quilt with a look at the back!

    I tried a new machine binding method. I sewed the binding to the front first, rolled the binding over to the back, clipped it down so that it extended past the sewing on the front side, then sewed from the front right at the inside edge of the binding. I’m happy with how it turned out and I think it will be sturdier than hand sewing the back, which is a really important consideration for a baby quilt. Next time I think I will cut the binding strips at 2″ instead of 2 1/2″ because the binding is longer than necessary on the back.

    with the baby beanie

    The finished quilt next to a crocheted baby beanie I also made.


  9. SunButter bites

    June 12, 2016 by Angie

    I was very intrigued by these no-bake peanut butter oat “protein” bites I saw on Buzzfeed. You can watch the video and get their recipe here. I’m allergic to peanut butter so I substituted SunButter, which is sunflower seed butter. You can use it just like peanut butter in recipes.

    Caution: somebody in the BuzzFeed comments put the ingredients into MyFitnessPal. These should really be called “fat” bites, hence why they taste so darn good.

    SunButter Bites

     

    These are going fast in our house. Only 8 SunButter bites were remaining at the time of this photograph.

    Ingredients

    2/3 cup SunButter (I believe any nut butter would work.)
    1 cup old fashioned oats
    1 1/2 tablespoons honey
    1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
    1/4 cup flax seeds (The original recipe says the flax seeds are optional. The original recipe is incorrect. To take the no flax seed option is to make a poor life choice.)

    Directions

    1. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl.

    2. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

    3. In your hands, roll and press the mixture into balls. You should get about 16 balls. Try to press some extra oats onto them. I didn’t have much luck with this – still delicious, doesn’t matter.

    4. Eat now or store in the refrigerator.


  10. eggplant parmesan

    May 28, 2016 by Angie

    My mother-in-law makes the best eggplant parmesan. The best. I tried to make eggplant parmesan a couple of times using other recipes and I didn’t like what I made. The recipes called for salting then frying the eggplant slices leading directly to disaster. Even Italian restaurants seriously mess up eggplant parmesan so making delicious eggplant parmesan has been a culinary goal of mine for years.

    Blanky's eggplant parmesan

    Blanky’s stellar eggplant parmesan

    My mother-in-law shared her recipe with me along with some tips and the brand of sauce she uses – Ragu Chunky in a giant plastic container. Can you believe that? That sauce is key!

    The recipe is this baked, not fried, version from Martha Stewart. Baking is lower fat, less messy, and a lot easier than frying. I followed the recipe pretty closely because I really wanted it to succeed this time! My small changes included the addition of a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder to the bread crumb and cheese mixture and decreasing the initial baking time as advised by my mother-in-law.

    I don’t buy eggs, but I do keep Eggology egg whites in the house. Robbie looked up the conversion for me. Two tablespoons of egg whites are equivalent to one egg without the yolk. He poured four tablespoons of Eggology into a bowl and added 1 tablespoon of Smart Balance oil to try to make up for the fat missing from the two egg yolks he omitted. From there he added the two tablespoons of water and whisked.

    I ran out of the bread crumbs and cheese mixture halfway through and had to make another one. I will double it from the start in the future.

    I had to bake the casserole longer than the recipe said to achieve the coveted bubbly, golden brown status. I think my oven is wonky so YMMV.

    I’m happy to report that my eggplant parmesan was amazing! It was not exactly like my mother-in-law’s but it was really, really delicious. Way better than what I’ve had at many restaurants and I’ve eaten more than my fair share of restaurant eggplant parmesan.

    eggplant parmesan

    Next time I will do everything the same except I’ll also slice the eggplant more carefully to get consistently thin slices and I’ll be prepared to bake the final casserole longer, maybe even using the broiler for a couple of minutes at the end.

    unphotogenic serving

    Lifetime culinary goal achieved!