livin' vegan in sunny atlanta

And the winner is…

 

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Random.org has spoken, and the winner is…

thevegandish!

You won with the following comment:

Additions to vegan friendly: Chow Baby (Howell Mill & Ponce locations), Big Chow Grill (Cobb Galleria), Seasons 52 (Perimeter & Buckhead) – they have a special vegan menu), add the Uncle Maddio’s location in Buckhead on Roswell Rd, Souper Jenny (Buckhead & Decatur), Barrelhouse (Midtown – vegan wings), Sufi’s (Brookwood, they say they have 9 vegan items), Noodle (Decatur & Midtown) and Addition to vegan: Juicy Jenny

Please send me a note at cracktheplates (at) gmail (dot) com and I will get “Salad Samurai” shipped to you!

I did love some of these other comments, though:

Photo by instagram.com/metowi

Photo by instagram.com/metowi

Saniel, Kristine, and Felicia dig Drink Art – check their praise:

Drink Art–unique, delicious, and truly artfully done food. A fantastic addition to the vegan food scene in Atlanta. –Kristine

Dinner: Drink Art. New, fresh and exciting cuisine. –Saniel

My new fav vegan place for Thai and have some Phad Khi mao noodles with soy chicken for 9.95. –Felicia

See Drink Art’s menu here.

Photo by Sarah at The Veg Abides

Photo by Sarah at The Veg Abides

Sarah can’t get enough of Ru San’s:

Hit it up RuSan’s if you’re in the mood for tempura zucchini maki, edamame, and miso soup.

Check out Sarah’s delightful blog here and her fun Instagram here.

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Revolution Doughnuts got love from Jane and Kristine:

Breakfast: Revolution Donuts–who doesn’t love a sweet treat when they’re visiting a new place?! Plus, the coffee is fantastic too so you really can’t go wrong. –Kristine

Breakfast – Revolution Doughnuts – what better way to start the day than with coffee and donuts?! Some of my all-time faves also happen to be vegan, including the vanilla bean, raspberry sprinkle, and chocolate. Wishing they were open now! –Jane

Nate and I cooled off with their doughnut ice cream sandwiches after a bike ride yesterday, and can I just say? YUM.

Thanks to everyone who left a comment!

Updating the Atlanta Vegan Guide + ANOTHER GIVEAWAY

This weekend I threw out (recycled) a stack of at least two hundred crisp Atlanta Vegan Guides. Straight from the printer to a folder in my desk, they never even had a chance. Never displayed at Dough, never posted on anyone’s fridge, never amended with personal comments or shared with friends visiting from out-of-town.

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Awwww- it’s the first edition of the guide (Fall 2012). Printing provided by the wonderful folks at Dough Bakery.

It was hard, but what was I to do? They were over a year out of date! That’s right: the last version went out Spring 2013, and it’s been 2014 for a while now. For cryin’ out loud, we’re nearly to fall!

So much has happened in the vegan world since last spring. Ammazza serves vegan pies with house-made cashew cheese! We have a freakin’ vegan thai restaurant! Pure Abundance is selling the world’s best vegan cheeses all over the place! (And Dulce Vegan is using Pure Abundance’s Pan in a swoonworthy sandwich called the Green Goddess Grilled Cheese.)

green_goddessPhoto by Dulce Vegan

Friends, it’s time.

It’s darn well past time.

I must update Atlanta’s only paper version of a vegan guide: THE Atlanta Vegan Guide.

(It’s also time to update Atlanta’s only online vegan guide, but we’ll tackle that next, okay?)

I need your help.

I started this money-savin’ project a few months ago, you see, to try and pay off some of my student loans at an accelerated rate. So I haven’t been dining out as much as I used to, and I’m not as aware of all the fun stuff that’s out there. The shameful truth: I haven’t had Ammazza pizza yet! I haven’t slurped noodles at Drink Art! (Although I did try. The place was packed and the waitlist a mile long.)

I need you to tell me what you think should be in the next edition of the Vegan Guide. Tell me what’s new, of course; but also tell me where YOU actually like to eat. The next edition should not only reflect the most recent additions to Atlanta’s culinary landscape, but it should include the places you actually go, so that when you hand a guide to a new friend, or someone visiting from out of town, you can say “This is a great a guide, and here’s MY favorite place!”

To sweeten the deal, I am offering another giveaway with this post. (!!!!!!!!) Please answer the following question in a comment:

A fun-loving vegan celebrity chef shows up in Atlanta with $100 burning a hole in their pocket. They want to spend the whole day with you. They need breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Where would you take them?

In addition to answering the question above, you can gain another entry by suggesting places that have not been featured in the guide before, OR, if you wanna get tendentious, tell me who should be removed from the guide (hee hee hee). The winner will receive a copy of Terry Hope Romero’s just-released book “Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don’t Have to Be Vegan to Love”.

saladsamurai-big_veganstreetPhoto by our friends at Vegan Street, makers of the internet’s bestbestBEST vegan memes! Go read their review here.

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When Terry came to town for the first annual Atlanta Veg Fest, I took her to Dulce Vegan.
Here we are!
We also had sandwiches and treats Dough Bakery with our pals Seth and Elena of VeganESP.

The rules:

For obvious reasons, contest is open to Atlanta-based or former Atlanta residents only*, and will be shipped within the US. C’mon, give me your suggestions!

Please, be a friend: share this post on social media. But note that only comments posted to this entry count as Official.

Winner selected on Monday, July 28!

*If you’re neither and can make a really good case for yourself in your illuminating comment, you’ll be entered to win as well.

And the winner is…

I wish I had ten copies to give away; one to each of you for your thoughtful comments. But alas, there can only be one winner… and the Random Number Generator has blessed:

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“The Veg Abides”! Congratulations! You won with the following comment:

What a great party! I am knew to your blog and a new vegan. Your dinner party has inspired me to share my foodie love with others! Seriously, I was drooling looking at Joshua’s food. I want to eat chilaquiles all the time =) I wonder what vegan Greek food would be like: tofu feta cheese on the Greek salad, vegan flaming cheese, maybe even a vegan baklava? The possibilities are endless!

Please e-mail me your physical mailing address at cracktheplates (at) gmail (dot) com so I can send you your cookbook and an additional recipe from Joshua’s new book.

Thanks for playing, y’all!

Adrienne

Joshua Ploeg cooked at my house! + Giveaway

Three weeks ago I sent out a teaser e-mail to a group of area eaters to gauge interest in a potential dinner at my house with Joshua Ploeg, the touring vegan chef.

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I guessed that our dining + living room could be stretched to accommodate around twenty, so I asked that folks RSVP quick.

Many already knew his work, but for those who didn’t, I named his cookbooks:

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This Ain’t No Picnic: Your Vegan Punk Rock Cookbook
Image by Alissa at Connoisseurusveg / Book for sale at Microcosm

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So Raw It’s Downright Filthy: A Raw Vegan Cookbook
Image by Buy Olympia / Zine for sale at Microcosm

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Fire and Ice: Warm, Cool, & Spicy Vegan Recipes from Hot & Soul
Image by Buy Olympia / Zine for sale at Buy Olympia and Microcosm

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In Search of the Lost Taste
Image by Buy Olympia / Preview several recipes and buy the book at Buy Olympia

To further stoke the flames of excitement, I shared Adam Gnade’s florid description of his cookery:

Joshua Ploeg’s cooking blows my mind so much that a secret door opens in the back of my head and white doves, musical notes, and winged horses fly out. His cooking is transcendent: Dangerous, strange and perfect. It¹s full of colorful tastes that explode in your mouth like Pop Rocks ­flavor combinations you never thought possible. Crazy alchemy. Freaky magic. Joshua’s the Traveling Chef; you make an appointment, he shows up at your house with a load of groceries, makes an incredible multi-course vegan meal using your pots and pans, and then he’s gone like the Lone Ranger riding into a big Texas sunset. Joshua’s been in a bunch of hardcore bands and he brings all the good things punk rock gave us: risk, passion, creativity, and weirdness; then he applies them to his meals. I randomly lucked into one of his dinners last year. I usually eat really fast and mindlessly, but I had to take this one slow and let all the flavors develop and do their respective stuff. Each had its own distinctive note ­ its own voice that rang out to let it be known that it was something special and unique. It was an experience in the finest sense of the word.

I became a fan after trying Joshua’s food at a Dinner & Bikes event two years ago. We’d stayed in touch since then, and every time it seemed like there was the possibility that he might be passing through this area, I let him know I was still up for hosting. Finally the stars aligned and we picked a date!

I expected there to be some enthusiasm, but was thrilled to find that within an hour reservations were full and we even had a wait list. The date set, RSVPs triple-confirmed, and wouldn’t you know it? On Saturday, July 12, Mr. Ploeg arrived via Greyhound to fix a feast for me and my friends!

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I picked him up at the train station and after chilling a bit at home and chatting about the menu, we took off to the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market for ingredients. An accomplished cook myself, I was surprised to feel like such a kiddo tagging along while my cool older brother shopped. Joshua buzzed through the massive produce section – a little epazote here, some Mexican zucchini there, and sacks of peppers in every hue — and navigated the dry aisles just as deftly. I learned about a cheapo vegan sugar, the story of canary beans, and made mental notes as he perused spices.

Once home, he got to work. Nate took a much-needed break from cleaning while I went out and shopped for flowers for our tables. I’m glad I left – I would have gone crazy at the smells had I stayed. Nate sent frequent texts in disbelief of how quickly things were coming together: our chef always seemed to have at least five things going at once. Baking a cake, stuffing chiles rellenos, tending the refried beans, dressing tamale cupcakes… what can’t he do?

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“Tamale cupcakes”

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In progress: cupcakes, spicy chocolate cake, colache, and chilaquiles

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Chilaquiles and canary beans simmering with onion

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Setting up the dining room. Fifteen seats down, eight more to go.

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Flowers make a party.

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Peppers are important.

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Shortly after 7pm, guests started arriving. Here are a few toasting their good fortune.

(All images to follow by Seth P. of VeganESP. Thank you Seth!)

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Joshua and I announced the first courses: a veggieful salad with pepita pesto and “tamale cupcakes” topped with guacamole frosting and fresh salsa.

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Announcing and describing the next five courses.

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Shiitake-studded chilaquiles topped with crispy crunchy jackfruit chicharrones

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Chiles rellenos filled with a creamy-dreamy cottage cheezy mixture and topped with a chipotle sauce. The crispy charred bits were my favorite.

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One of my favorite parts was when Colin announced, during introductions, that he was an undercover fire marshal. I laughed so hard.

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My lovely friend Allison of Pure Abundance (above, far right) contributed two giant wheels of her terrific aged cashew cheese to the night’s festivities. Everybody adored it! You can find her tasty goods at Dough Bakery and bi-weekly at the East Atlanta Village Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.

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Speaking of Dough Bakery: there’s Kevin and Laura on the left!

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Plating dessert on our varied assortment of bowls, plates, and whatever else I could find in the china cabinet. Did I mention that we used every plate, cup, fork, and cloth napkin in the house? We did. (And that’s after my pal Sarah brought nine extra dinner plates!) Thanks also to all of the guests who contributed extra chairs. My first pop-up dinner felt like a real team effort!

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Can’t get enough of Seth’s beautiful photography? Check out his and Elena’s blog, VeganESP and follow them on twitter: SethP23 and VeganESP. They cook and blog regularly and everything they make is delicious. (They even score it!)

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Here’s to you!

Now: time for a GIVEAWAY! Joshua left a copy of his entertaining cookbook “In Search of the Lost Taste” for a lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment and share your answer to the following: if Joshua were to cook a dinner party at YOUR house, which cuisine would you prefer? We went with Mexican-ish because it’s what a vegan feels is most lacking in Atlanta. How about you?

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Entries will be collected through next Monday, July 21 and the winner announced that afternoon. US + most international mailing addresses welcome. Good luck!

Thanks to our touring chef for a marvellous, magical meal and evening. ‘Til next time…

Jenny’s visit to Atlanta 2014

A couple of weeks ago our dear friend Jenny made her annual visit from Chicago and, as always/promised/threatened, we tore up the town! Albeit belatedly, I want to share some images from our trip. Perhaps you’ll have visitors to Atlanta soon? Take these images as suggestions of fun things to do in the city this summer!


Welcome to Georgia, Jenny – where the onions ride in open-backed trucks.


Desta has the best Ethiopian food in town! I love sitting on the porch by the trees. All levels of management and service staff insist that the vegetarian platter is default vegan unless you specify that you’d like your shiro drizzled with butter, but I always say “no dairy, no milk, no butter in the shiro” just in case. We haven’t had any issues.

This is an old picture from the archives (this post!) but still basically what it looks like. YUM! (Oh, and please pardon my mis-type of “injera” above! I really do know better!)


One reason I love Desta so much? It’s right next door to a post office. The inverted Jenny flies again…


Home! A walk to the mailboxes. Nate, Jenny, and our Perl-y girl


On Friday we went to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I love these sculptures! They’re “The Four Seasons” by Philip Haas and were formerly at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. They’ll be here through October, so go see! Smaller versions live in the Conservatory. They’re inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s 16th century paintings.

Mushroom man

“Winter”: our favorite

Love those mushroom lips.


A frog mosaiculture outside the Conservatory.

Look up

Nate with the scary berries.

Nate with his favorite plant, camellia sinensis(tea)!!

Kids losing it at the ogre


the “Earth Goddess”.

A redbird for Nanny


Want more mosaiculture? See my post from last summer, and visit with butterflies, cobras, phlox, quails, a little lizard, and more!

In the children’s garden we discovered a BOG with pitcher plants! Please recall that last November Nate and I travelled to Pensacola, Florida to see pitcher plants for our anniversary. We had no idea they were closer to home!


Farewell, shaggy dog.

Atlanta’s High Museum of Art isn’t far from the Botanical Garden, so we headed there next. Unfortunately the big exhibit was closed to get ready for “Dream Cars” (ugggggghhh), so we visited the large permanent pieces on the top floor.


Everybody loves this one.


These were amazing. I think Jenny said that this is what her soul looks like. Agreed.


Laughing about Salazar (sorry, inside joke).


Over the past twenty-give years, Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba 1948) has become internationally renowned for works that employ the language of photography to explore visual surprise and wonder. In 1962 Morell moved with his family to the Unite States from Cuba. He received a scholarship to attend Bowdoin College in Maine, where he took his first photography course. He later completed an MFA in photography at Yale University, finding inspiration in the work of street photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank.

Morell has turned his camera on conveyors of cultural meaning such as family, books, maps, money, and museums in extensive series that explore the perception of images. He has experimented with many techniques, including photograms, still-life tableaux, stop-motion studies, the camera obscura, and most recently the tent camera–a kind of portable camera obscura that projects the image of a landscape onto the surface of the ground. Now, after decades of working exclusively in black and white, Morell has embraced color, returning to old themes and series to view them in a new spectrum. This retrospective of more than one hundred works made from 1986 through the present traces Morell’s innovative carrer as he continues to mine the essential strangeness and complexity of images.


The Reverend Howard Finster is one of the best-known self-taught artists in the world. An evangelical Baptist preacher for most of his life, he worked as a bicycle and lawnmower repairman until 1975, when he heard a voice telling him to ‘paint sacred art’ and became a visionary artist. Finster produced a rich body of important paintings and sculpture, but the centerpiece of his creative activity was his four-acre art installation, Paradise Garden, intended to glorify God and commemorate the inventions of humankind.

In the early 1960s, Finster had begun to reclaim swampland around his home in Pennville, Georgia, and build his environment from cast-off materials and his own creations. Embellished with painted gourds, silver tinsel garland, and glass-studded “suncatchers”, the setting eventually included a small church, a tower of bicycle parts, architectural follies, large concrete sculptures, paintings, and innumerable signs inscribed with Biblical messages.


The High Museum has an area devoted to the work of Howard Finster, made famous by his “Paradise Gardens” in NW Georgia and album cover designs for R.E.M and Talking Heads.

Visits to Paradise Gardens were an important part of my childhood and the cause for some of my earliest and most indelible memories. I remember sitting on Finster’s knee when I was quite young, and hearing him talk to my mom and dad, both lovers of nature. My dad is a self-taught artist as well whose work sometimes reflects Howard’s, and his handwriting is similar. In some ways, my parents’ property in Rome is like a mini-Paradise Garden, only it reflects to a much further extent my mom’s deep knowledge of horticulture and her meticulous collection and grooming of rare and heritage plantings. My dad’s welded creations dot the lush landscape. Finster’s Garden, on the other hand, was a tangle of metal, glass, and wood painted in his signature bouyant style. There was plenty to explore, look at, touch, hide in… and a bit to fear, too. After all, Finster was a born-again evangelist who had pretty strong ideas about the world!


Saturday was a big day because we picked up my newly-built Yuba Bike, the elBoda Boda, from the bikeshop! I’ve been using it for recreation and bike commuting to Emory. It’s my all-around car-replacer and I LOVE IT! And yes, I regularly bike in dresses and skirts. :-) Thanks to Mark Stosberg at Bikes as Transportation for recommending Yuba.


Our big event Saturday was going to the Center for Puppetry Arts to see Charlotte’s Web. Jenny and I have a tradition of taking in a puppet show. Now that we’re members, we got to sit on the second row! It was awesome, and I cried when Charlotte died.


Charlotte says goodbye. Cue tears!!


The baby spiders who stayed behind for Wilbur. More tears! I’m a big ol’ softie.


We always “Build-A-Puppet” at the workshop after the show. Here we are with our spiders. I made a wolf spider! Jenny gave hers an electric manicure!


We made Jenny’s last night in Atlanta count. First, dinner at our favorite place, Harmony Vegetarian on Buford Highway. We ordered WAY too much food. Unbelievable, really.


On my birthday this year Nate and I explored Plaza Fiesta and had a great time playing games in the little arcade. I was super excited to take Jenny when she visited. Skeeball is my favorite!


Jenny also punched some ducks. No vegan cred lost here…


Nate found a shooter game.

Side note: isn’t Plaza Fiesta wonderfully cheery?!


I love Plaza Fiesta! I love Jenny! Perfect end to a great day. Thanks for reading. :-)

Bike ride through Decatur Cemetery

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Today Nate and I took a lovely afternoon bike ride through Decatur. We like to detour through the large city  city cemetery. Today was a bit overcast and cool, and perfect for bird watching! Here, a robin says hello from atop Cleland.

That’s one thing that makes bird watching in a cemetery so pleasant for Nate and me. When we spot someone terrific, we don’t usually have to do a whole lot of explaining! Just point and say, there! Atop McKelvey!, (or Harrison, or… you get my drift). Makes birdwatching a lot easier.

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I snapped McDonagh and Lang for Nate’s mom, since they appear to have some kind of Irish or Celtic influence.

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Today we had the great pleasure of seeing not one but TWO red-headed woodpeckers!

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Here’s the first.

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Giving us another view, before taking flight.

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Here’s the second, a little further down, but in the same area of the cemetery.

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Lookin’ at the looker

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We often stop to read the gravestones, particularly if there’s an interesting name or if they’re really old or weathered. Here, Nate marvels at a large age gap in a presumed married couple.

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Taking off! Decatur Cemetery is a lovely walk, but on a bike, you really feel the hills! They’re everywhere, and some are quite steep. Seems like you’re always either going down or coming up one.

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Didn’t get any good pictures of me today, so here’s one from last weekend. We took our bikes up to Chattanooga, stayed overnight, and were able to get some great riding in Sunday morning before a bountiful brunch at our all-time favorite restaurant, Sluggo’s. Here I am outside the restaurant after biking there from the hotel via one of the city’s beautiful bridges. Chattanooga is an extremely bike-friendly city and we love visiting.

Marvellous Macaroons

Today is the Bake Sale Benefit for Atlanta Veg Fest at Dough Bakery! It’s happenin’ at 100 Hurt Street from 10am – 2pm, but I recommend getting there ASAP for the best selection.

I contributed some marvellous chocolate drop-studded macaroons that just happen to be gluten-free. They’re a buck each and all proceeds benefit the 2014 Veg Fest in November. We are part of the annual week of Worldwide Vegan Bake Sales coordinated by the very cool Gary Loewenthal.

A pile of cookies, hastily wrapped.

Mmmm… don’t you want me?

Above, a selection of the ones I saved for myself model on a cupcake stand made by my favorite potter, Jeanette Zeis. She and her partner Kenn recently-ish moved to Portland and oh, how I miss their presence in this city! Even now I can look across the room from where I’m typing this and see their work — one of Kenn’s early shadowboxes, a full-size cake plate by Jeanette. Sigh.

I digress! Back to cookies.

In case you made it here to Crack the Plates from the bake sale event — perhaps because you were thinking, WOW! these macaroons are good! how did she do that? — I want to share the recipe. It is inspired by the one in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, adapted for gluten-free tastes. Here’s what you’ll need:

Sorry for the blurry picture in bad lighting. It’s morning, I haven’t had any caffeine, what can ya do?

Ingredients (makes 2 dozen good-sized macaroons, perfect for a party or a benefit bake sale):

  • half block  (about six ounces) of asceptic-packaged extra firm or firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup organic vegan sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour
  • 1/2 tsp xantham gum powder
  • 2 tsp baking power
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 pound organic mini chocolate chips (use fewer if using full-size chispas)

Preheat oven to 350. Use an oven thermometer to check the temperature; adjust if necessary. If you don’t have a oven thermometer, put it on your shopping list. They’re inexpensive (sub $10) and important.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the dry ingredients — the baking flour mix, xantham gum, salt, baking powder. Set aside.

In a blender, puree the tofu, oil, and almond milk until smooth. Transfer this mixture to a mixing bowl or a stand mixer. Thoroughly whisk in the sugar and extracts. I like to do this in my stand mixer, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer. The strong among us will just do it with a bowl and a whisk!

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until thoroughly combined with a spatula. Dump in the chocolate chips, mix. Dump in all the coconut, mix. The dough will be stiff, but you and your spatula are strong!

Grab up about 1/3 cup of dough and drop it on the cookie sheet. Do not worry whatsoever about forming them. Just drop. Leave about an inch and a half of space between each cookie pile. I can fit twelve of these cookies per sheet (that’s three rows of four). They really don’t need a lot of space at all.

Place baking sheets in oven. If using two different racks (one above, one below), set a timer for 6 minutes. At six minutes, switch the sheets. The one that was on the top rack should go to the middle, and the one that was on the middle should go to the top. Bake another 8 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool on the sheets a couple of minutes, and then transfer to wire racks to thoroughly cool.

And there you have it!! Gluten-free macaroons that are really, truly marvellous! Serve them at your next party.

BIG THANKS to Leigh S., founder/director of Atlanta Veg Fest, and Kevin of Dough Bakery for making the sale happen! Y’all are the greatest!

 

Early birthday celebration with my bestie

Yesterday my oldest, bestest friend Jessica drove down to celebrate our birthdays a week early. She and I are three days apart, and this year we are turning thirty! We went out for lunch, thrift shopping, and a visit to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Here are some images from our afternoon:

The fragrant paperbush plants were my favorite. The blooms look like little glowing lanterns hanging from the branches. Magical.

My beautiful friend was excited to see the orchids as part of the “Orchid Daze” program.

In the running for most Lovecraftian orchid.

Creatures? Or orchids? Like strange birds peeking from their shells.

A redbird for my grandmother.

Interesting frogs. Have I mentioned that I am very afraid of frogs? Taking these pictures was a big step. But they were so neat looking, I couldn’t resist. I just hope they are not unhappy in their habitats.

Saying goodbye at the end of the day! Note: I had already changed into my colorful owl pajamas. There they are, blog friends – my favorite! Perhaps I wouldn’t usually share a picture of me in my PJs, but this is the only one Jessica and I got of each other. I’m so glad we got to spend the day together. We both lead busy lives, but we have maintained our friendship for over twenty years, and she is so precious to me.

I love free software!

Today is the Free Software Foundation‘s “I love free software” day, and guess what? I love free and open source software. I’ve been using FOSS since grad school, when I started writing papers on the seminary computer lab’s Ubuntu machines. My personal laptop is a System 76. When I started my new job (where I have to use Windows), I insisted on being allowed to have the GIMP, or the GNU Image Manipulation Program, on my machine. It was a little victory, but a meaningful one.

#ilovefs day 2014 is an online campaign that raises awareness of Free Software and passionate, hard-working people behind it. (from the website) I use it because it is written by people who care deeply about what they do, and who want to keep improving. It reminds me of the Hebrew phrase tikkun olam, which means repairing (or healing) the world. Free Software means you can read the code, which means you can improve it — and then pass it on for the better. Free Software repairs the world by advancing projects made with integrity to people who need them, free of charge. One day, I hope to contribute code to projects that people use every day.

My FOSS Valentine is my partner, Nathaniel:

I picked this picture because it looks like he is explaining something here, and his mom’s beautiful painting is in the background. (This was taken by our friend Seth Pajak of VeganESP at our Halloween Party, and chances are he was teaching us how to play Arkham Horror — not explaining FOSS — but no matter.) He’s a great teacher and advocate for FOSS; check out his active Github and his blog. He inspires me to continue with my Python study so that I can build my dreams.

I enjoyed reading about why folks love Free Software at #ilovefs HQ, but I didn’t see anyone who looks like me among these nice people. I hopefully searched #ilovefs on Twitter, and only found a handful of women discussing it:

There is a well-known gender gap in the world of FOSS contributions, but thankfully, there are organizations working to amend this. Last year I was tempted to apply to the Gnome Foundation’s Outreach Program for Women, where participating FOSS organizations (like Debian, Fedora, Mozilla, and Wikimedia) offer internships to women who want to start contributing. Different winds took me different ways, but there’s a chance I might still try in the future.

I’m grateful to the Free Software Foundation for inspiring me to share just a little bit about my journey with FOSS today. It’s an important part of my life, but something I don’t talk about too often. Perhaps I should change that!

Happy Chinese New Year!

I like holidays, and as special occasions go, I particularly enjoy Chinese (Lunar) New Year. It began this year on Friday, January 31, and ends in about two weeks with the Lantern Festival. Each day offers a special way to celebrate or commemorate. For instance, on the fifth day, folks may eat dumplings in the morning and set off firecrackers  later in the day to ensure prosperity in the new year. Naturally, I appreciate the emphasis on vegetarian (vegan) food — it is considered cleansing and spiritually edifying.

Friday Nate and I had dinner at our favorite Atlanta-area Chinese vegan restaurant, Harmony Vegetarian. It was packed. Just as we ate black-eyed peas and collard greens for good luck and fat bank accounts on Jan 1, we auspiciously shared three plates of dumplings. I like Harmony’s pan-fried leek dumplings; Nate went for the steamed Shanghai-style. We also shared an order of fluffy taro dumplings, handmade each morning in small batches and available til sold out. We were lucky to get the last order of the night.

Wonton soup, no water chestnuts, extra peppery

Steamed shanghai dumplings

taro treasure!

steamed bean curd skin roll with veggie ham and gai lan

When I was a kid, my parents used to take my brother and me to a Chinese restaurant that had glass table-tops with information about the Chinese zodiac tucked underneath. We enjoyed reading the descriptions and talking about how fair or accurate they seemed. My hyper-intellectual, hard-working, artist dad: the fire monkey. My authoritarian, self-confident, money-minded mom: the metal rat. Tree loving, sensitive, careful: me, the wood rat. And my brother? A fire tiger! Restless, well-informed, a natural leader. I still get a kick out of reading them.

2014 is the year of the horse. If you were born in one of the ranges below, you are a horse! What does it mean to be a horse? Horses are said to be great communicators, kind-hearted, and focused on self-improvement. They have a tendency towards talkativeness and are marked by cheerfulness.  Horses tend to be the “popular” one in the group — but not Mean Girls-style. They’re well-liked because they’re kind and hard-working, and give others someone to look up to. The downsides? Like actual horses, they may seem stubborn, and they resist constraint. They can be impatient and quick to anger, offend, disappoint, or give up. I found this description particularly charming: “Flamboyant by nature, they are wasteful since they are not good with matters of finance due to a lack of budgetary efficiency.” Your “horse” characteristics are further informed by your element, i.e., earth horses are different from wood horses, and so on.

Believe it or not, the food — while terrific — is not my favorite part of Chinese Lunar New Year. I love the dances best! And yet, until this year, I had only ever seen a lion or dragon dance in pictures or videos online. It seems like every year Chinese New Year sneaks up on me, and I end up missing out. The fact that I got to see one this year is thanks due to my friend Jenny, who posted pictures on Facebook yesterday and led me to the info about today’s festivities. Thank you Jenny!! You made one of my dearest wishes come true!

And wouldn’t you know it? Just mere days after Atlanta’s snow shutdown, it was a glorious 63 degrees – perfect for an afternoon outside. We joined a crowd at the Culture Center of Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Atlanta.

Stretching

(Pssst! Click any image to see a larger version)

Preparing

Arranging

the lion dance begins!

The lion threw candy or gifts and the children scrambled.

Feeding the lions red envelopes

We loved our first lion dance!

Time for the Dragon Dance. The dragon emerges!

Feeding the dragon red envelopes!

There goes my envelope!

With the dignitaries

10/10, would dragon dance again!

Pure vegetarian by the women and men of the Tzu Chi Foundation

Vegan eats at the fest!

The noodles with two kinds of mushrooms (Chinese shiitake, wood ear) and veggie ham was so good we needed a second plate. Auspicious, too — when Nate went to retrieve it, he ran into our friend Lauren and her beau. It was so nice to see friends at the event!

With my favorite

cotton candy kisses

Purchase: cat cards from one of the vendors in the market area. I think they’re meant to hold money; I intend to cut out the cats carefully and turn them into stickers with double-sided tape. I also got a couple of cards for my penpals and a nice red papercut of two rats.

We made it home by mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day on our bikes exploring the city; we logged at least twelve miles. Once home, I made a dinner of hazelnut-crusted seitan and roasted brussels sprouts with whole toasted hazelnuts — to be featured in a future post — and then caught up with my Grandma Lowe on the phone. Nate did the dishes and ran some errands, and now we’re settled in drinking tea. It was a pretty perfect day. Happy Chinese Lunar New Year!