BOO!

HAPPY HALLOWEEEEEEEEEN! I hope you’re all doing something fun/cozy/yummy/creepy today!

Here’s a recap of my Halloweekend in the village of Oak Park, IL, which consisted largely of the following:

Making sandwiches, soup, and “autumn spice” pancakes

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Conversations about eyeliner

Being fascinated by Biscuit the bunny

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True Blood marathons

Facebook analyses

And trying to get the cork out of a bottle of Moscato

Other than that, we only left the apartment for three things: A trip to Trader Joe’s, a night of bizarre Halloween-themed flea market fun, and brunch at Munch.

Saturday night, we made our way to Wheaton, IL with two friendly Chicago accents, Shay and Brad.

Attack of the pleather jackets and scarves! Also note our stylish seatbelts.

We arrived at the flea market, and it was HUGE, with vendors spread across a vast lot, indoors and outdoors.

There was allegedly a pony running around, but I somehow missed it every time it passed by. The boys looked at baseball cards but didn’t buy anything. Jacque bought a Dracula DVD (the one with Keanu Reeves), which we watched later that night, and I made off with some super cool flea market earrings for $10:

Sunday Jacque and I went to brunch at a little vegetarian restaurant in Oak Park called Munch. It’s pretty funny whenever we eat together because I’m vegan and she’s allergic to everything, which makes us really high maintenance with our issues combined. But this place was awesome. We had a very zen server who was happy to point out options on the menu to fit each of our needs. Fortunately they had seitan bacon, which is wheat-based and not soy-based like tofu or tempeh, so Jacque could eat it. We both loved our meals. Jacque ordered the breakfast sandwich with egg, seitan bacon, spinach, peppers, and mozzarella, and breakfast potatoes and coffee (with almond milk).

I started with a delicious vegan pumpkin chocolate chip muffin and peppermint tea, then had the Groovy Tofu Scramble with mushrooms and peppers, sauteed greens, and mashed sweet potatoes, with a side of toast. Everything was incredibly satisfying.

And we were fortified for more episodes of True Blood.

All in all, an October weekend well spent. Thanks, Jacque!

We Carved Them, We Cut Them

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, not least because it falls in my favorite season. I’m probably a weirdo, but to me there is something almost cozy about creepy, spooky things. I enjoy being creeped out. But not super creeped out. Tiny creeped out. Donnie Darko creeped out. Ghostbusters creeped out. Tim Burton creeped out.

I love the imagery, sensory pleasures, and festivities of All Hallows’ Eve–the cheesy and playfully scary decorations, skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, costumes, trick-or-treating, Frankenstein, Dracula, werewolves howling at the moon, witches, ghosts, ghouls, spiders, cobwebs, bobbing for apples, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” old horror movies, crunchy leaves and cool breezes, jackets and hoodies, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and other creepy music, s’mores, apple cider, chili, squash, oh my! It’s better than Christmas for me. Is that messed up? At any rate, I think it’s fabulous and marvelous and wonderful. These are the things that make a girl happy 🙂

This week’s almost record-breaking warmth and loveliness for the end of October prompted me to designate Wednesday pumpkin-picking day. I met my mum at the produce stand where my family has gotten our Halloween pumpkins since I was a wee child–the same site as the previous week’s apple cider extravaganza.

We carefully selected our soon-to-be-jack o’ lanterns. I ended up with a big round one and two small because I had a feeling I’d be my indecisive self when it came to what to carve–face or picture? Picture on the big, friendly face on the small, scary face on the other small. Done.

That evening I wrangled up one of my very favorite people, Natasha, to come over and we let our pumpkin-carving creativity run wild on the balcony.

Photos of the process. Google image searches supplied plenty of inspiration.

 

 

 

 

Natasha created a collage of pretty autumn leaves, and I copied a design I fell in love with of an owl in a tree with a full moon…

…and threw in a ghost on the side for good measure.

Butternut squash soup and pesto pasta for dinner. The pesto was starting to get moldy, but we ate it anyway because we love taking risks. It was so good! We both feel totally fine.

In a fit of festive Halloween excitement, I asked if she’d rather make raw caramel apples or creepy 3-ingredient apple bites, and presented the pros and cons of each choice, to which she replied, “OK, since you’re clearly more into this than I am, why don’t you choose…”

Apple bites it was. So simple, so tasty.

Did I mention I also somehow convinced her to watch the Cardinals in the playoffs with me twice, even though she doesn’t like baseball? What a good sport. True love.

Don’t worry, the fun isn’t over yet. I am currently en route to Chicago to visit my fabulous friend Jacque and her boyfriend, where more Halloween adventures are sure to be documented. Three words: Haunted flea market. It’s about to get real.

Step one of my big plan to fully enjoy and indulge in all the sensory pleasures this fall has to offer: APPLES. This was yesterday’s theme.

I kicked it off by collecting organic and very local Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples that had recently fallen from Elinor’s trees. Quite the bounty. I knew if I didn’t get them first, the neighborhood pack of deer would, as I have caught them in the act many a time. Don’t worry, I left them lots to snack on. Fifteen minutes later, 25 apples were cutely covering the countertop. Game on.

Right away I consulted the website of my new favorite vegan recipe genius, the lovely Canadian blogger Angela–she’d know what to do.

A lonely butternut squash from my mom’s garden also happened to be hanging around. I.love.butternut. Fortunately, Angela had just the recipe I needed to marry these two delightfully autumnal characters: Maple Butternut Squash & Apple Casserole. Uhh, YUMMMM?

I made three slight modifications to the recipe. Curry powder was oddly nowhere to be found, so I substituted 1/2 T ginger and 1/2 T turmeric and hoped for the best. I also poured about 2 T of melted coconut oil over the top of the squash before going into the oven because it felt like the right thing to do. I also had no pumpkin seeds, so I used chopped walnuts instead.

The verdict: I knew it would be good, but this turned out amazing–better than I’d imagined. It was hearty, bright, flavorful, and pleasantly sweet–autumn in a casserole dish. Thank you, Angela! All three of my changes turned out very well, though I’d like to try it again using actual curry powder to compare. And you know I’ll be making this again.

Bob stopped by in the afternoon and invited me to the produce stand to press apple cider, and of course I couldn’t refuse! My mom joined in the apple fun, too. The stand was all Octobered up. I loved it.

I seem to have a soft spot for old-fashioned manually operated thingamabobs, and this press stole my heart. Look how pretty! Bob said he bought it for $400. Yikes. I think I’ll have to admire them from afar.

I’m scary when I’m grinding apples.

The freshly pressed cider was soooooo wonderful. I think we used five different varieties of apples, and they all combined to form one superb, fresh fresh fresh juice that I could have drunk a whole gallon of.

 

Since I still have 21 apples to use up (and more falling from Elinor’s trees every minute), I believe more delicious looking recipes from the vegan blogosphere are in order for the coming weeks. Here’s what I’d like to try next:

Slow Cooker Naked Apple Butter

3-Ingredient Halloween Apple Bites

Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf

Raw Caramel Apples

Vegan Caramel Apple Pie

What are YOUR favorite ways to enjoy autumn?

Mine include: making comforting recipes from the season’s harvest (like pie, muffins, bread, and casseroles), watching good Halloween movies, carving pumpkins, roasting pumpkin seeds, admiring the colors of leaves, and bike rides with friends.

Happy Sushi

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Happy Spooky Month, everyone! Can I just say, October rules–it is the epitome of all that autumn has to offer, my most treasured season. The leaves here are already starting to turn as they give up the ghost to cooler days in one last explosion of color for the year. Ahh…. I daresay nothing else in nature compares to this for me. So get ready to get cozy. I know I am.

As promised, here’s the sushi recipe I’ve been using for the last few months… no fish required!

Ingredients:

1 sheet of sushi nori (I bought these on Amazon… they were the absolute cheapest I’ve found, 15 bucks for 50 sheets)

about 1/3 cup cooked brown rice (or sticky sushi rice if you wanna be a pro)

1/4 ripe avocado, cut into thin strips

two 1/2-inch slices peeled cucumber, cut into thin strips

about 1/2 of one umeboshi plum, cut into small pieces (umeboshi plums are pickled plums considered a medicinal food in traditional japanese cooking. Got mine from Whole Foods in the Asian section)

about 1 t of gomasio (optional) (gomasio is a dry condiment made from crushed sesame seeds, seaweed, and sea salt… I kinda put it on everything! Asian section at Whole Foods)

ume plum vinegar or rice vinegar (optional)

soy sauce

…and feel free to garnish with pickled ginger/wasabi if you like that sort of thing

I apologize for the lack of process photos, I guess I got carried away and forgot all about the camera while making the sushi. But here’s a nice video if you like visual instruction. Anyway, here’s what I do:

1. Lay the nori sheet on a flat surface, like a sushi mat or big plate or cutting board.

2. Cover the bottom half of the roll with a thin layer of rice. Wet your hands with water if the rice starts sticking to them–works like a charm.

3. Lay the strips of avocado end to end horizontally on top of the rice. Alternate with rows of cucumber. This usually makes two rows of each for me.

4. Make one row of the umeboshi plum pieces in the middle. It’s OK if things overlap or aren’t perfectly straight.

5. Sprinkle the rice and vegetables with gomasio and ume plum vinegar.

6. Wet your fingers and moisten on the top inch or two of the dry section of nori.

7. Starting from the bottom, tightly roll the sushi, being careful not to rip the nori sheet.

8. When you get to the end, hold it there for a few seconds so it will seal up with the wet portion.

9. Wet a cutting knife under water, then cut the sushi roll into 6-8 sections, using a seesawing motion.

10. Form into a smiley face, obviously 🙂 Serve with soy sauce and/or wasabi paste and/or pickled ginger. Practice your chopsticks skills.

Making your own sushi may seem a bit daunting at first, but it’s super easy and quick once you get the hang of it, you gotta believe me! And much cheaper to make than spending $8+ for basically the same thing at a sushi restaurant. Have it in the afternoon as a darling little meal with green tea, and feel happy knowing that every single ingredient provides wholesome nourishment to your insides. Just marvelous.