Happy New Year!!!

Wishing every one a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!!!

To Wish you a Happy New Year Snowball Fight Scene Giclee Print - AllPosters.ca.
All the best to everyone in 2011.  See you in the new year.....

Yarn Along -29 December 2010

No Yarn Along at Ginny's this week, but I wanted to share any way.  If I knew how to do a linky thing I'd host for her  :)

Anyway, just to show I'm not a crazy knitter that churns out things at light speed, I'm still working on my cashmere mobius.

I'm reading my new cookbook from the Pioneer Woman.  I can't wait to try out many of the recipes.  Apparently Cowboys and Farmers eat the same way  :)

I do have a finished project to share.  I got Colin's mittens felted.  They took a while to felt.  Next time I'm sticking with Paton's Classic Wool for my felt projects -it never disappoints.  The Briggs and Little didn't disappoint either really, I'm just glad Colin has largish hands and I didn't have to felt down the mittens very much.

As you can see from the picture, it's no giant surprise why I get the goofy pictures from Ella.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree around here.

Zgance with Red Sauce & Seitan

Alright readers, I've been holding out on you. When I did my Christmas round-up I left out the best part - the part where my mom veganized my favourite childhood meal for Christmas Day lunch!

I was born and raised here in Canada, but my parents came from Croatia in the 1960s. As a result, I was raised somewhere in between the old country and the new. Nike shoes and Rainbow Brite and Mr. Rogers spliced together with never believing in Santa Claus and Croatian school on Saturday mornings.

It also meant eating some meals that my non-immigrant schoolmates found rather questionable. Although, I should note, that I was a spoiled brat and got away with eating far less of the old school meals and far more of North American takeout variety than the majority of my Croatian school counterparts.

There was one Croatian meal, however, that I never turned my nose up at. One meal that in all my attempts to Canadianize myself, always gave me away as a not-quite-from-here citizen.

This meal is what the fancier folks call polenta, but we called it zgance. And my grandma's was the best. The zgance itself is nothing more than cornmeal, salt and water, but what made my grandma's so good was the fact that she baked it.

And doused it in her red sauce.

Ohhh buddy, that sauce.

When I was a kid the sauce was made with chicken (although even back then I refused to eat the chicken - proof that I was a vegetarian in the making long before I stopped eating meat). My mom so cleverly subbed in seitan instead!

In previous blog posts, I've touched on the concept of nostalgic eating as one of the more difficult obstacles encountered as a vegan, particularly around the holidays. It is often difficult for those of us who went vegan as adults to use food as a means of reminding us of long forgotten traditions and much simpler times, something so many people do at Christmastime. The longer we are vegan the more new vegan food associations we make, of course, but there's something special about triggering childhood memories via food.

Having a veganized version of Zgance and Red Sauce took me back to side-ponytails, New Kids on the Block cassette tapes and fighting over the blue plastic cup at my grandma's house. I know that it won't do the same for you, but it is such a delicious and hearty meal in and of itself that I urge you put a little Old Country flair into your modern diet.

Now, let me preface this recipe with a disclaimer: my mom and grandma are kind of rebels in the kitchen in that they don't use recipes. If you ask them for a recipe they will first be reluctant and second provide you with something that is nowhere near an exact science. I suppose spontaneity and flying by the seat of your pants add to the cooking experience, but for those of you who are anxiety-prone like myself, here is my mom's best attempt at quantifying my grandma's Zgance with Red Sauce:

Zgance with Red Sauce & Seitan

For the Red Sauce:

1 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
1 heaping tablespoon paprika
4 cups of roma tomatoes skins removed & diced (my mom used about 1 1/2 of the 28oz cans of whole roma tomatoes which she put through a food processor)
salt & pepper to taste
4 cups of seitan diced into 1" cubes & pan seared for a few minutes*

1) Put 1 tbsp of canola oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or pan at medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft & translucent.

2) Add the celery and cook until soft.

3) Add paprika & stir.

4) Add tomatoes & salt & pepper.

5) Simmer gently for about 1 1/2 hours. If you find the sauce too thick for your liking, add 1/4 cup of warmed vegetable broth at a time until it reaches your desired consistency (I like it thicker, but still runny).

6) Add seitan the last 5-10 minutes, just enough to warm through.

For the Zgance:

2 cups of cornmeal
5 cups of water
Salt to taste

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Boil the water in an oven-safe pot. Pour the polenta in at one side of the pot. Let simmer gently, for about 15 minutes, without stirring.

2) After it has simmered for the 15 minutes, remove about 1/3 of the water in the pot. Place it in a measuring cup because you will be needing it shortly.

3) Start mixing the zgance with a firm wood spoon, slowly adding back the water until the mixture is smooth but thick. While most of the fancy polenta recipes you might find in the blogosphere call for a really smooth, almost thin polenta (the consistency of mashed potatoes, usually), zgance is meant to be lumpy so don't worry about getting too fancy schmacy with it (this is, after all, what peasants ate - or so google tells me!).

4) Remove pot from the stovetop. Cover, and place in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

5) Spoon seitan and sauce over polenta and enjoy!

* My mom used this recipe for seitan, but included poultry seasoning in the mix. Further, she left the soy sauce and ginger out, and instead boiled it in vegetable broth with some sliced garlic, celery and onion added in. Go for the pre-packaged variety if you have it available to you and convenience is your thing.

This makes a motherload of zgance and red sauce. I don't know how big a serving size technically is (although I'm fairly certain that it is far less than what Paul and I seem to think it is). In terms of measurement the best I can do for you is tell you that we had enough for lunch, dinner and breakfast the next morning. How's that for some spontaneity in the kitchen?

Tofu Pot Pie (and the Christmas Round-Up)

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! I took this beautiful photo of one of the delicious dishes my mom put together on Christmas. It was even better warmed up as leftovers the next day. The recipe for this tofu pot pie is found here.

We had a chaotic but wonderful Christmas this year. I was spoiled rotten! Here are a couple of the vegan-minded gifts I received:

A pizza set, complete with a hand-made wooden rolling pin. I currently have a really crappy stainless steel rolling pin that we registered for before our wedding and four short years later is already falling apart to the point where I've used a wine bottle the last few times I've baked cookies. I'm so excited to give this one a workout!

Paul got me a CherryBerry bag!!!

I have always been a handbag girl. Shoes I could always give and take, but in my pregan days, purses were my thing.

These days, while I spend a lot of time googling and subsequently ogling eco-minded purse options, I can never bring myself to spend money on fancy handbags. I currently have two Matt & Nat bags that I love, but they are getting old and starting to fall apart. I was in desperate need for a large, black bag and here it is! It was so nice to be surprised with an indulgence that I rarely ever afford myself.

After hearing the difficulty Paul went through to get this bag to me, I just want to comment on how impressed we are with both the quality of the vegan leather and the considerate customer service Paul dealt with in having it shipped here. Ethical fashion has never been so great, let me tell you. I already have my eye on a matching wallet!
Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the feast of Stephen.

Good King Wenceslas Giclee Print
Good King Wenceslas

We're having a lovely 2nd day of Christmas.  Auntie Belinda and Uncle Stefan joined us for the morning before heading back to Scarborough.  Hope you are all enjoying the Christmas season.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!!!

Merry Christmas to all and all the best over this holiday season!!!!!
Yea, Lord we greet Thee!
Born this Happy Morning.
Jesus, to Thee be glory giv'n.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.
Oh, come let us adore Him!

Wishing you a Blessed Christmas!

Caramelized Onion, Butternut Squash & Chestnut Casserole

It's Christmas Eve Eve, and if you are still struggling with your Holiday menu for this year, might I suggest another delicious gem from Veganomicon?

This festive little casserole is hearty and filling, so it's enough as a main dish (which is how we ate it on Sunday night). However, if you are looking for something to accompany that Christmas seitan roast it makes a great side dish too. Although it takes some time to get from ingredients to finished casserole, most of this time is hands-off baking time.

Prior to making this meal, I'd never worked with chestnuts before and I'm not too vain to admit that I cheated and bought the pre-peeled, pre-roasted kind, like these.

I was a little bit concerned about roasting already roasted chestnuts, but it was unwarranted. Because I've never cooked with raw chestnuts, I don't know any better with regards to the texture of the finished product. And while they were mushy (I think chestnuts are supposed to be mushy anyway?), it gave an earthy, meaty quality to the casserole.

For those of you who don't have a copy of Veganomicon, here is a link to the recipe.

Finally, I'd just like to take a minute to wish all of you the very best of the season - health and happiness to you and yours from all of us here at This is Vegan!

Mary - The Blogger
Paul - The Taste Tester
Dora - The Floor-Scrap Sampler


Yarn Along -22 December 2010

Almost forgot to join Ginny in her Yarn Along this week.  Well it's still Wednesday, so here it is.

We're reading from Ella's Family Bible Classics.  We'll be reading this story tomorrow.  On my needles I have something for me!!!  It's a cashmere mobius.  Elizabeth Zimmerman knew what she was doing when she invented knitting a mobius.

We were making cookies again today.  Here's my princess doing most of the work.  Don't worry, she doesn't touch the Kitchenaid when it's moving.

It's an invasion of hedgehogs.  Ella helped put the chocolate sprinkles.  These are very easy and yummy.
Just finished all the fish for tomorrow's market.  We have plenty of fresh whitefish.  Andrew was able to get his nets this morning and he found the fish. 
I smoked up plenty of fish and hopefully enough that everyone has a taste for the holidays. 
See you tomorrow at Dufferin.
Christmas is almost upon us and we're busy getting ready.  I've got cookies to bake and presents to finish wrapping.  Ella's been having a fun few days.

Ella and Grandma finished painting Ella's bedroom over at Grandma's house.  The colour is Tinkerbell lavender.  Not exactly the colour I'd pick, but it's not my room  :)  Ella's graduating from the toddler bed into Auntie Belinda's old bed (Victorian cast iron and brass).  It's 3/4 size, so nearly as big as her one here at home.
Ella wants to make her room very fancy, just like Fancy Nancy.  Grandma let Ella have the little tree for her room.  Ella and Grandma got the big tree all decorated on the weekend too.

Right now, Grandma's house is so much fun.  Since her driveway got plowed out, Ella has a mountain to play on.  She's had such fun with the toboggan.  It's not been too cold either.

This will likely be the last unscheduled post until after Christmas.  I'll talk to you later.

Festive Spicy Nuts (and the 3rd Annual M&P Ugly Xmas)

Every December, we host an Ugly Xmas celebration - a chance for our nearest and dearest friends to gather in our basement and celebrate the season in their most festive attire. It's hard to believe another Ugly Xmas has come and gone - it feels like I just finished cleaning up after Ugly 2009.

This Christmas marks my first as a full-time member of the workforce. Last year at this time I was still in graduate school, shedding tears over a thesis that I never thought would be finished. This means that this holiday season I have found myself with far less time to prepare for events (you would think it would be the other way around, but let's me honest - "working on my thesis" often meant sitting in my pajamas, eating sugar cookies and watching episodes of The View in order to determine the actual melting point of brain).

So, instead of going super crazy with snacks for this year's Ugly, I wanted items that were festive and tasty but simple.

I found the recipe for softly spiced nuts in my copy of Eat, Drink and Be Vegan. It showcases some of my favourite spices of the season: cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. It comes together quite quickly but a word to the frugal: nuts are expensive. It cost me $12.00 to get the mere two cups of mixed nuts required for this recipe.

I normally make cupcakes of some sort for all our events, but I went with Ugly sugar cookies instead! They are the same sugar cookies I made for Halloween this year, from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. My icing-piping ability leaves something to be desired so it's a good thing the night's theme was Ugly.

I suffer from delusions of grandeur when it comes to icing baked goods. I always envision these adorable, perfectly decorated cookies and cakes and somehow convince myself that I am capable of doing them. Instead, they turn into the hot mess you see above - at least they are recognizable as Christmas trees, though! I must be making progress in that department. And those are my most favourite of all the Christmas treats, Peppermint Patties (from How it All Vegan) on top.

Enough about the food though, let's get to the OUTFITS! I love that our friends get as into this event as we do - we really appreciate all their effort. Here are just some of samples!

Your favourite vegan blogger (I hope!)

Me, Paul and Dora

This one hurts the eyes a little, doesn't it

Richard Nixon even made a special appearance!

Awesome details on these two

Every year the guests of the party get to vote for who they think embodies the spirit of Ugly Xmas the most. This year's winner......

Samcha, for her amazingly accurate nod to Ralphie from A Christmas Story!!

A big thank you to all those who came and spread the Ugly Xmas spirit!

Will be at Dufferin Grove just before Christmas!!!!!!

The nets are going back into the water tomorrow and the smokers are going on.  The winds sound like they may cooperate.  Andrew will be down Thursday.  The last market and delivery date before Christmas.
We also hope the weather cooperates alittle longer and we can make it to December 30th market at Dufferin.  Last one in the year 2010.  
Boys have started their Christmas Break.  They are relaxing and helping us with doing some chores around the house.  They will be skiing too and they have their first race on December 31.  It is called the Enduro and it is a team race.  A team of three and one has to be a female.  They have 2 hours and it is run like a relay.  It is how many laps your team can do in that much time. Last year they did well and did quite a few laps.  Now the challenge is to better it.....
Today we are just getting organized to do Dufferin.  Checking the weather it seems like every couple of hours hoping to see no changes.  I was working on some caviar and Andrew was trying to keep the ice from becoming to solid around his boat.  Andrew also making sure his nets are defrosted and his lines are all organized.  He is trying to do as much as he can on shore for it isn't the nicest out on the bay these days.  A tad chilly. 

I received a delightful surprise today. A bouquet of Christmas-themed flowers from a colleague. So thoughtful and unexpected. The best sorts of surprises, I think!

We have decorated our tree and very lovely it looks, too. I want to introduce to you a little felt tree ornament I made a few years ago. She's Jane the Christmas Sew Angel! Or maybe even Jane, the Sew Christmas Angel. Puny pun, huh? Sorry about that! Her body represents the typical tomato shaped pincushion and I found some ribbon that looked like a tape measure to decorate her wings!

Fourth Sunday of Advent - Angels

A little disappointed today.  We headed out for church in Ottawa today (St. Barnabas) and since it was snowing we got stuck behind a snowplow.  We ended up being so late for church we didn't go.

This is the Fourth Sunday of Advent and we light the Angel's candle.   This week we are reminded of the Angel's.  First there was the Angel that greeted Mary with 'Hail Mary, full of grace' and was answered with 'be it unto me'.  How frightened Mary must have been?  And that leads to the second visitation, with Joseph.  ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife’ (Mt 1:20).

Then we remember the Angels that proclaimed the birth of Jesus so many years ago.   We are in the final preparations for the coming of our Lord.

Annunciation Giclee Print

My New Year's resolution for 2010 was to start including more raw components to my diet. Like all resolutions before it (joining and actually using the gym, saving more money than usual, eliminating swear words from my vocabulary) I have not even begun to fulfill this promise to myself.

I love raw food - when someone else makes it for me. To be honest, I am strangely intimidated by the preparation process and often find myself confused by raw recipes that cross my path. This is hardly an excuse, though, because five short years ago I was also intimidated by the instructions on a box of macaroni and cheese and yet somehow I have managed to be a (mostly) self-sustaining vegetarian for almost four years now. I was intimidated by vegan cooking once upon a time and I somehow managed to get a hang of that (not that it's hard - I was just that awful of a cook), so I think it's about time I suck it up and give raw cooking a more ambitious try.

Ever the procrastinator, I figure that now that we are in the final days of 2010, it's appropriate to begin fulfilling this year's resolution. Also, I just remembered about this cool raw cooking website that I found a few months back, Choosing Raw.

I have decided to start small. We'll save the raw pizzas and raw burgers for days when I laugh in the face of my dehydrator, and perhaps have become more accustomed to reading entire recipes through sooner than 20 minutes before I need to have dinner served.

Which is something I didn't do when making this raw dressing. And in that intense half-hour period before dinner is done I noticed that I was supposed to have been soaking the cashews for several hours prior to making the dressing. Whoops.

I skipped this step, which is why the dressing looks more lumpy than creamy - but it still tasted fabulous, so who cares.

The dressing was intended to be used as an afternoon veggies-and-dip snack, but it went really well with the buffalo seitan wingz and garlic roasted potatoes I made the other night. The ranch dressing was perfect for putting out the fire that comes from eating hot wingz. It was almost like we were at a sports bar, right in our own living room!

Digital copy of the recipe found here. Quick and easy. The California sandwich they use it on looks amazing!

Busy, Busy

I'll admit, this is a picture from last year, but it's not much different this year.  I'm busy baking/cooking and preparing.  And Ella's having a ball in the snow.  I'll post more on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Have to keep it short. But will be at Wychwood tomorrow and Owen Sound

Watching the minutes tick by that I should be in bed.  So I am off so we can begin to travel to the city for the first time in two weeks.  Maybe we can share some of our snow with you down in the city. 
Nite for now.

Phase One: Christmas Tree Time ...

Yesterday morning I sallied forth - accompanied by one son and my husband - to get our Christmas tree. First, we tried a place that had given us what we thought was a $20 off coupon. We chose a beautiful tree, gulped at the price tag ($75) then figured with $20 off with the coupon, that would be quite a deal. Oh boy, had we got that whole coupon thing all backwards! We missed the sign that read "$20 Trees In Back!" There were a bunch of quite sparse-looking trees "in back" (note: in English English that would be "in the back") that were going for $20. Obviously not the pick of the bunch!

Feeling a bit foolish, we went to our usual place, Pattersons, feeling embarrassed that we hadn't gone there in the first place. Just to see the old-fashioned truck, the huge blow up Santas and the nifty signage was a treat not to be missed, anyway! This is a wonderful year-round lot on a corner. At Christmas it's all about Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands and fruits and then at different times of the year they sell deliciously fresh seasonal fruits, veggies and plants.

The young lady who was attending the lot yesterday used the nifty Christmas tree "hairnet" gadget to make our lovely tree into a tidy, easily transportable item. Sort of like a Christmas tree sausage machine, the casing being the tube of hairnet material! She hefted the tree through the circular holder of the white netting material, then pulled it back out and the net covered the branches. Bit of a Christmas Tree magic trick, if you ask me!

Uncle Stefan, if you are reading this stop now!!!!!  Come back tomorrow or after Christmas please!

We woke up this morning and found Merry had been up to some more elf mischief.  Ella discovered her peeking out from Daddy's stocking.  Noy sure what she was doing in there  :)

Our Advent activity today is to make a shirt for Uncle Stefan.  We need to get out Momma's folk art paint and make some hand prints on a shirt.  We've made a number for Daddy over the years and thought Uncle Stefan would like one this year.  I'll post a picture later.  We also need to get at the Christmas cookies, I didn't get any made yesterday.

December 15 -Yarn Along and Cookies

Joining Ginny again this week.  And just so you don't think I'm a fanatic knitter that finishes a million things a week, this week's project was started last winter during Ella's dance class.  I have finally pulled it out and making myself finish.


The book is my Little House Christmas Treasury.  Always a favourite!  Before any one says anything, yes the mitten is huge.  It's knit from Briggs and Little and will be felted.  The pattern is from the Jan/Feb 2010 Piecework and are Compass mittens from Maine/Nova Scotia.  I hope they felt really well.

Today's Advent activity will be cookie baking.  I will hopefully get some shortbread cookies baked and then some for us to eat now.  I keep getting the sad face when Daddy goes by the cookie jar  :)

"Glimmering Gone" exhibition ...

Recently I attended the opening of a breathtaking exhibit called "Glimmering Gone" at the world-famous Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington. A mere 15 minute's drive from my home. I have never seen glass artwork installations like this before. It was interesting to me that two (women) glass artists - who lived thousands of miles apart - had collaborated to pull off this fascinating show. The Museum has an amazing collection of local boy Dale Chihuly's glass art. I want to go back by myself one day and have a lingering wander through this museum. It was too much to take in on a busy opening night, I think. Besides, there was a cool looking Museum gift shop that looked promising which I didn't visit this time!

The hot shop was open on the night of the "Glimmering Gone" opening. What a show that was! The architects of this hot shop included theatre-style seating above the floor of the hot shop so the public can see the glass artists doing their thing with the hot glass. Awesome stuff! In the picture you can see the exterior of the cone-shaped building that houses the hot shop!

I need more cookies like I need a hole in the head, but something about Christmas makes me want to spend all my spare time baking (although my favourite pair of jeans severely, severely disagrees). And nothing welcomes the jolly fat man quite like shortbread, does it?

On Saturday I decided to try a new recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, a cookbook that sure has getting a workout in my house as of late.

This was my first attempt at a recipe from the "Fancy Cookie" section of the book. Up until now I have pretty much stayed safely in the confines of the "Drop Cookie" category, but on Saturday I decided that it was time for a challenge. Actually, it was less about a challenge and more about a blinding desire for shortbread cookies and something to blog about. (Hey, at least I'm being honest here).

To make the shortbread into the cool textured shapes you see above, you pipe the dough onto the baking sheet (as opposed to rolling and cutting it). So I made the dough, got out my pastry bag and attempted to squeeze out perfect little star shapes.

Nothing that came out of that pastry bag even remotely resembled a star.

I nearly broke my hands trying to squeeze the thick dough through a very old star-shaped nozzle that I'm fairly certain was not large enough (but was the largest that I had on hand). I know I am kind of whimpy and have a fairly low threshold for pain, but doing this seriously hurt my hands. It hurt my brain, too, as it was a very tedious and unrewarding process (my hands killed and STILL the shapes looked more like crumpled up newspaper than they did elegant, abstract stars).

Once the piping part is over, it is smooth sailing - they are baked for a short period of time and then topped off with a dollop of freshly made chocolate ganache and cooled for an hour or so.

I definitely nursed my wounds by sampling quite a few of these cookies over the course of the weekend. Further, I fed them to a group of friends that came over to watch UFC 124 on Saturday night and so these cookies have been given the omni seal of approval as well. (Speaking of UFC, it's always exciting to celebrate wins with vegan athletes!).