This picture post begins with rutabagas and red cabbage.

Creamy, purple-ish friends who made a creamy, purple-ish dinner.

Did you know? Rutabagas peeled and boiled and mashed with (vegan) cream or milk and butter like you’d do with regular ol’ russets are scrumdiddylumptious. It’s true!

Perhaps you remember that I’ve been dealing with lots of teeth issues recently. For three weeks I went almost totally without solid food, and then started easing back into the soft ones. Above, one of my soft dinners. Below, Gandalf.

I didn’t watch too much or play online a lot while I was recovering from my extractions, but the animated Hobbit is a must whenever I’m feeling unwell. A combination of hydrocodone and anti-nausea medication kept me asleep most of the day, with limited (and grouchy!) awake-and-aware hours. Thanks so much to Nate for treating me like the Princess I Most Certainly Was Not.

And to Lua and Perl for cuddling and allowing photographs.

And to my sweet penpal for sending me #goodmail.

A week after surgery I celebrated Christmas early with my beloved grandmother at her house. Her house is always so full of cheer this time of year. These candlesticks with holly were my favorite!

That same weekend my brother Cory and sister-in-law Sarah came up from Savannah to spend several lucky days with us. I wanted to do something nice for my brother who adores Oreos and simultaneously satisfy the crazy craving I’d been having for my bestie Jenny’s vegan oreo “truffles”, so I decided to make them.

Y’all, these things are an embarrassment, as Jenny and I are well aware. This is pure processed, scanning-the-paperback-cookbooklets-in-the-checkout-line-at-your-local-Food-Lion guilty pleasure and nothing else. They consist of three major ingredients (and lots of minor ones, as they are, after all, composite foods): vegan cream cheese, melted chocolate, and Oreo-type cookies. I used Tofutti, semi-sweet chips, and Trader Joe’s Jo-Jos. How To Do It: process cookies in food processor. Add cream cheese. Combine thoroughly. Roll into balls. Dip balls in chocolate.

To hear the internet tell it, this little three ingredient recipe presents lots of complications. The mixture is too gloopy! The hot chocolate is melting my little cookie balls! Etc. Lord have mercy. Here’s the “secret”: once you’ve crushed the cookies in the food processor and added the cream cheese, use two spoons to drop/scrape off dollops onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper and put into the freezer. That first image? That’s the gloopy gloppy mix straight from the food processor. The second image? That’s after they thoroughly chilled, when I was able to quickly roll them into nuggets. Just don’t try to make little perfect balls of freshly-combined cookies and cream cheese! It’s not possible! Not happening!

Once rolled? Freeze a little while again. Once they’ve been in there awhile? Take ‘em out and roll ‘em quickly in chocolate. Put back in the freezer to set.

Done. You’re done.

Put in a box and take ‘em to dinner and make everyone happy. Oreo balls demystified, happy 2012.

 But back to visitors. Here’s mom and Nate on the couch with Lua and Perl.

And later, mom and Sarah at our favorite vegan Chinese restaurant, Harmony.

A funny picture of everyone but mom’s noodles. Creepy vegan shrimp are creepy!

I only get to see my brother a couple times a year (if that) so I was really glad he and Sarah made the effort to come visit. I know it can be difficult to travel on holidays, so I appreciated it. I’m also glad they had a good time hanging out and trying vegan Chinese food with us. It was their first time and they were super impressed with the seitan (what meat-eater isn’t, though? – seitan rules). Mom also loved her smoky noodles.

Meanwhile, Unix deigned to cuddle with Lua, who – as you can tell – was just a teensy bit freaked out by the attention. Unix is a grouchy, gripey ol’ gal who usually keeps her distance from little miss Lua.

Her baby on loan to Miss Rar, Perl cuddled a blanket.

A few days later my dad came home from working in Missouri and California for the past couple of months. We picked him up from the airport and took him to the original soul veg in the West End, where he had country fried steak and collards and mac and cheese and cornbread and the salad with goddess dressing, all vegan. The only thing he didn’t seem to like too much was the cornbread, which is understandable because it was sweet and sweet cornbread = cake.

Soul Veg, let’s talk about this wildly inaccurate self-described “most affordable” label. Two standard dinner plates and side of mac and cheese cost forty-four dollars. This is so far from affordable I’m not even sure we can be friends anymore. What the hell are you talking about? Change your sign or your prices. No seriously, please change your prices. We can only afford to dine with you a couple of times a year as it is.

Since Nate and I go to New York to celebrate legitimate Christmas, we have unofficial “our” Christmas on some other mutually-agreeable date. The night before our Christmas I laid out my Christmas cards, address book, and stamps.

We watched Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, a holiday tradition.

King Moonracer!

“I reformed this Bumble. He wants a job!”

My Christmas miracle was a visit from my bestie Elizabeth and her new baby Toby, not even two weeks old…

Here’s Toby with sweet Sarah.

Besties! Left to right: Christin, Elizabeth and Toby, Sarah!

And again! When you have such fabulous friends, how can you resist?

Nate chose Harmony for our special Atlanta Christmas eve dinner.

Double greens (green beans and broccoli) in garlic sauce.

My favorite guilty pleasure – crispy vegan beef with orange peel.

Nate tried something new – tai chi vegan chicken (made from wheat gluten/seitan). It was okay.

Our presents! Nate got Bee-Free Honee, his favorite B-Fresh gum in spearmint, 2 packs of Magic cards, a Downton Abbey-themed custom shirt, and the Bag End LEGO Set. He gave me the new Xiu Xiu record, a 16GB memory card for my camera, and amazing ornaments (on the tree, not pictured) that he made. The teapot in the middle came from my sweet friend Elisabeth (CzechVegan). The airheads came with the record, and were not consumed.

Lua and Perl were quick to investigate the ribbon from Elizabeth’s gift.

And Nate finished Bag End in an evening.

For dinner I prepared funny vegetables: romanesco (broccoli romanesco, or broccoflower) and sunchokes.

Isn’t the romanesco beautiful?

Split in half.

Roasted jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes, romanesco, skillet tofu.

Oh, and then! Then we left Georgia for New York! We stopped midway at my college pal/former roommate Laura’s house near the coast in Virginia. I was very pleased to see that she had a lovely tortoiseshell cat!

Laura had not seemed to age a day since I last saw her five or six years ago, and is as interesting and funny and clever and radiant as ever. I’m so glad we got to spend the evening catching up, though it probably meant neither of us got the kind of sleep we should have.

On the way out, I had to stop at Food Lion for Food Lion-branded gems. Here are knock-off Girl Scout cookies that are accidentally vegan and not actually full of any kind of insane preservatives or artificial ingredients. Still junk, though. Make no mistake.

After 23.5 hours of driving, including 1 hour spent waiting to cross the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan – arrival! Our first meal of leftover roasted veggies, salad from Vegetable Husband, and more of that Victoria Vegan vodka sauce.

It’s a tradition of mine to visit Lagusta the day after I arrive, but alas, she had already set off for Hawaii. Here are some pictures especially taken for my penpal.

Pretty Maresa, holding it down. Did you know Maresa is the best baker in the world? Yep, she is. She made a special order of vegan Zebra Cakes with all organic, local ingredients for me and they are too good for words!

I was excited to take home some of Lagusta’s miso and the new cheeses by Treeline. I purchased scallion cream cheese and one each of the semi-firm plain and smoky cashew rounds. The scallion cream cheese is mind-blowing and the smoky is great, but the plain needs work. It had an uneven flavor – some bites would be very salty, others very lemony, others bearing only the distinct flavor of raw organic cashew nuts. They clearly know what they’re doing, though, and I insist they’ll only get better with time and experience. Bonus: they are more affordable than my favorite Dr. Cow.

Serving note: Treeline semi-firm cheeses seem to taste best when they’ve warmed a bit – not intentionally, but say, left on the side of a warm dinner plate? The flavors coalesce and the texture becomes way creamy and rich. As with dairy-milk cheese, this artisan vegan cheese is best enjoyed at room temperature.

Solid chocolate painted reindeer and tree.

Season’s gem: Winter Wonderland collection.

One way to eat a pound of chocolate: peppermint bark with white chocolate swirl!

Next I went only fifteen minutes by car, tracking a beautiful river, to Gardiner to the Tuthilltown Spirit house where craft bourbon and other spirits are sold.

I met the great fluffy distillery cat.

And took standard-issue touristy pictures.

I was there to get one last present for my sweet mister Nate, who always wants good drink but rarely treats himself. He was so thrilled when he opened his gift!

A Christmas eve sip.

Driving back towards New Paltz, I passed a field of Canada Geese. This is not common in the south, so I took a picture.

And then finally to Gomen Kudasai, where Youko was sadly out sick! I still sat for a big bowl of (unpictured) kimuchi udon, delicious as usual.

Ok, so I made another stop at Adam’s Fairacre Farm to pick up goodies for my vegan Secret Santa. Since she said she liked all things childlike, I thought, why not send a box of sweets? Everyone loves sweets. I tried to get the most interesting things available at Adam’s that would also fit into a small priority box – a local chocolate bar, pomegranate hard candies, those too-good Justin’s cups, dessert teas, cider.


Christmas morning we woke up to a light dusting of snow!

I tromped outside in house slippers to grab pictures.

The tree.

The brunch table. I love that tablecloth.

Presents!

Nate played Santa’s elf and distributed gifts equitably.

Gifts to Nate.

That Downton shirt!

Gifts to me.

Nate & Adam playing Magic, with oranges and a banana peel as counters.

A mid-Christmas snack of Treeline cheeses.

Oh, and Lagusta bonbons, of course!

Our Christmas day Tofurkey, a vegan tradition.

And for dessert, Maresa’s vegan Zebra cake.

I’m a good one. I shared.

Ok, you’re (pretty much) all caught up. Time to go take a walk in the woods. More soon!