Sunday, May 31, 2009

Baking Squares

Had my mom, dad and grandpa in town for lunch today so I wanted to do something special..I yanked the Joy of Vegan Baking off the shelves and went for recipes that would use up ingredients I had in the house since braving Whole Foods on a Sunday morning is not something I'd recommend in my town (parking lot rage? No thanks!). Somehow I collected over ten lemons in the fridge (maybe that bag of organic lemons on sale was the reason?!) and I have a ton of jam from my jamming last summer so the lemon bar and raspberry oat bars caught my attention. I'm always a little nervous making stuff for the first time for company (it has blown up on me before but I still take my chances) but these did not disappoint. Wow wow wow! Excuse the fuzzy photos..I had to snap these before they were yanked off the plate.

The "raspberry" oat bars that are actually plum 'cause I used plum jam. Crumbly yum!

The lemon squares..only my mom knew the secret ingredient was tofu. Grandpa liked them a lot and compared them to his glow-in-the-dark store bought artificial ones that he always buys. I suppose that was a compliment? =)

Rumor has it from my friend Sarah that the oatmeal raisin cookies in TJOVB are the best, non-vegan included so I'll be trying those next!

In other news, this past week, I noticed that my three goos were starting to get along a little better. Monday, an hour would pass before they'd squabble. Tuesday, 1.5 hours, and so on. By Friday, they were getting along just fine for over three hours! I left H alone with the goos on Friday night and part of Saturday to visit Sarah in Portland, Maine (more on that in another post). H was brave enough to let them spend the night together (oh, that sounds sexy! except we're talking goos and it's just not..he he he!). Unfortunately, our upstairs neighbors were also away and left their Mac Mini running a TV program that blasted classical music all night long. Between that and the goos' minor squabbly noises (nothing serious) from the living room, H didn't get to sleep until 5am. A good deed never goes unpunished ya know? But it was worth it because now Cubbie, Keebler and Trolli are living in the same space together and loving it. Whew! And, um, we adopted three more..yes, we are a little crazy..more on that later! For now here are some shots of domestic goos bliss here at Gemusings:

Cubbie and Keebler saying good morning to each other:

A fuzzy nap pile!

I hope to start blogging more in June now that the goos are demanding *slightly* less attention. Of course, there were several belly rub requests and one toilet paper tube stuck on Keebler's head mid-post for this one so it's hard to promise anything nowadays!

And before I forget yet again, it's almost jam making time again! Strawberry season will be hitting the northeast in just a few weeks. If you're interested in food preservation but not sure how to get started, strawberry jam is super easy. And check out this free food preservation course at the University of's completely free and all WebCT..I learned a lot!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Strolling in Somerville

An email popped up in my inbox this week advertising the Somerville Green Festival. It advertised some know-how workshops on bike maintenance. Since my bike is in extreme disrepair (flat tires AND jammed brakes), I was so there! So on a gorgeous Saturday morning, I stepped out onto the sidewalk and crossed the city line between Cambridge and Somerville. Which basically means that I just walked two steps to the house next door to my building and I was in Somerville. Want to walk with me and have some fun? Let's take a stroll to Somerville!

Wonderfully wide sidewalks..just steps from Cambridge yet so much more of a suburban feel from the crowded brick sidewalks where I live. I almost feel like we're back in my hometown in New Hampshire. And how great are these sidewalks for a leisurely run? Can't wait to try.

Somerville is Cambridge's grittier cousin. Cambridge has its own charm..and history..and even a little ritz but Somerville has no pretense. It's cool and hip like Cambridge but there's pride in the rough and tumble of its less pretty sides. These little dinerettes are pretty common and you can get a super cheap and unfortunately not vegan breakfast or lunch for just $3.

Somerville has always been a big immigrant community and with it there's a certain showiness that appears in the landscaping and's not uncommon to see triple deckers with greek columns or stone lions..whatever reminds the owner of their native lands I guess! The Somerville Arts Council has a special tour around the holidays for seeing the town decorated in the most unbelievable holiday decorations EVER. This town is big into lawn decorations let me tell you.

Lots of yard sales along the way..we browse, looking for cheap cookbooks or dishes but nothing really catches our eye..except maybe some disco gear but we decide that is probably not that practical...well, at least not for work! Actually, I take that've been a little reticent about just exactly what you do for work..for all I know, you are a professional disco queen or king!

The Somerville Armory for the National Guard is no longer used for the military and is now instead a yoga studio and community space. How fitting!

Local artists can cheaply afford storefront space that would otherwise be super pricey in Cambridge. We check out this window display of a local potter and I daydream of repotting that massive succulent that I have at my office. I offer to give you a few baby plants for your place. We discuss how cool square containers and how we'd really like to get some.

We see a new start-up for cloth-based diaper delivery service..very cute. We don't wear diapers right now (and hopefully never again!) but like the idea of cloth ones for cuties.

More statues..and tons of seems that every other yard has some sort of statue..mainly religious. We comment that this one is a little different..almost a little flirty!

A little city that is big on pride..Somerville has its own museum. We make a note of that for another day...

The greening of Somerville is obviously at City staff'ers use Smart cars to get around town. We discuss how cute Smart cars are but how practical are they really? We're not sure...

Okay, here we are. Google Maps was right on with the time estimate. We're really excited that Google now gives directions and time estimates for walking! We left my house at 10:03am and it's now 10:33..exactly 30 minute walk. Now, we enter Somerville High School to check out the Living Green Festival.

Lots of booths to check out..almost all local volunteer groups for gardening, recycling, and more. This climate action group, 350, uses cookies to demostrate the effects of global warming. Um, cookies? We're so there. Whoops..not for eating. For illustration purposes only. Chocolate chip cookies baked at 350 degrees are perfect..try baking them at 450 and you get overcooked, hard, and dry cookies. The idea is that our planet thrives at the equivalent of 350 degrees..push up the temperature and well, our cookies are toast.

We make a $5 donation and enter their raffle..lots of cool local prizes. I hope you win! Okay, I hope I win too =)

This woman is gives us some extra large metal tins for container gardening and some seeds. you want green or red leaf lettuce seeds or dandelion greens seeds? And let's make sure we get some of the sunflower seeds she offered. We stop and daydream about what we want to grow...

I heard about this little machine, Soda Club, from the Nutrition Diva..make your own carbonated sparkling water so you don't need to buy any plastic bottled water. I admit that I still occassionally buy sparkling water 'cause I love it so I'm pretty excited to check this out. Less plastic bottle waste!

Speaking of going vegan, we stop by the Worcester Vegetarian Society's table. Yeah! Worcester is a city about 50 minutes from Boston. Strange that none of the Boston groups are here but we're excited to meet the Worcester group and thrilled they are there. Tons of great books and materials. We're really excited to see the vegetarian message out at this event. So often green events totally miss the boat on reminding people that vegetarianism IS the best way to stop global warming. We chitchat with other vegetarians here for a bit.

In trying to find the bike demo, we stumble into a cooking demo. They are cooking quinoa..let's check it out!

Quinoa with asparagus? OH...we're hooked...

We wonder why the quinoa is so dark compared to what we find in Whole Foods..the presenter tells us that there is no difference but I notice that the quinoa is a little bitter.

Free food! We're so there...local restaurants have there anything vegan for us?

A lovely vegan tempeh sandwich..oohhh sooo good. And we even get to eat it in a high school cafeteria! How often do we get to do that??

And finally, we spot the sparkled raisin gingerbread..which is vegan! We're excited but there's just one piece left..I say you should take it, being polite but you say I should, also being polite. And then we laugh and decide to split it before someone else grabs it!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Luscious Lemon Bread and Other Tidbits

First, I'll start with a recipe and some foodie pix to keep you satisfied in yet another of my "I-haven't-blogged-again-for-a-few-weeks-let's-catch-up-now" posts. Bear with me! I think everyone one must have that one recipe. You know, the one that you know will never fail you..the one you fall back on when impressions count, right? Ready to meet mine?! Luscious Lemon Bread...if you like lemon, you're gonna love this recipe. I made this recipe for my own mom on Mother's is always is a crowd pleaser.

I've got somewhat of a history with this recipe. I've been eating it since I was, oh, nine years old or so. The recipe came to my family through my mom's friend Donna. Donna is the most amazing baker and one of the reasons why I became so interested in baking. She's also one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet. Now Donna was married to, well, I just can't be nice about of the biggest pills I've ever met. Still. Keep in mind that I was just a little kid at the time and I thought this. One time I saw a contest for best local chef recommendations in the local newspaper in our small town, so I entered Donna's name being a sweet and somewhat naive little kid. Donna was the best and I wanted everyone to know! However, her husband was furious..he wanted Donna's recipes all to himself so she turned down the chance to enter the contest to avoid making the Pill implode. Fast forward a few years later, Donna said goodbye to the Pill and she's been a happily free woman since. And so have her recipes..hello luscious lemon bread! This recipe was easily veganized and such an easy bake that you'll be able to whip it up in no time, I promise!

Donna's Luscious Lemon Bread

1/2 Earth Balance or vegan margarine at room temperature (gotta be room temp..that's the trick)
1 cup sugar
The equivalent of two eggs (I use egg replacer)
1/2 non-dairy milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Lemony Glaze:
The zest and juice of 1 organic lemon
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a loaf pan. Cream the Earth Balance (or margarine) using a mixer with the sugar. Add the egg replacer and non-dairy milk by drizzling into the sugar mixture while still mixing. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, bit by bit until just combined. Fold into the greased loaf pan and place in oven. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the top is golden brown and a tester stick comes out clean. Let the bread cool for exactly 15 minutes. While the bread is cooling, prepare the glaze by mixing the three ingredients together. Pour on top of the cooling bread. Let the bread cool until the glaze has hardened. Remove from pan, slice, top with strawberries and serve...

I've been MIA for a while and I'm slowing getting my blog up to date. First is not so good news..all is not well in Deguville. My goos have been fighting with each other, like, well, the siblings that they are. It started about two weeks ago and we've had to separate them. So the benefits of a three level degu manor are negated when it's only one goo per level. They cry for each other all night and day but then fight horribly when together. It's a classic case of "I love go away!" After talking to some degu experts of a sort, I learned that my three boy goos hit puberty, well, exactly three weeks ago. So I've got three teenage boys on my hands. Lovely. I hope we can get them to calm down as they mature. H and I are at our wit's end trying to reintroduce them. H thought he was making great progress the other night when he brought Keebler and Cubbie into the bathroom to let them run around for a bit in a room with no dangerous electrical cords to chew on..unfortunately, it ended bloody. Trolli has been the victim of most of the biting and he cries his little fuzzy self to sleep each night. It breaks my heart..we try to pamper him and cuddle him but we are simply substitutes and not very good ones for having his brothers nearby. Ack! We've got some remaining ideas..we will not give up on them and if we have to build two more degu manors we'll do it. But we might have to rent another apartment for us to live in =) Here's Keebler...

At least the lilacs are out..

And the squirrel babies are finally poking their cute lil' noses out of the nest. Squirrelly lets them out of the nest for a few minutes at a time but not for long. Considering that she was raised by two well-meaning but clueless humans, she's a darn good squirrel mom..not sure how she figured it all out:

Our Golden Shoes program has begun in Cambridge. It's been amusing for me to see my artistic handiwork throughout town via the sponsor posters I whipped up a few weeks ago. Our volunteers have been circulating them throughout town and it seems that I can't go anywhere without finding one. I've always been a corporate graphic designer..never retail so until this moment I didn't know what it felt like to bump into your own design on the's a really cool feeling I gotta say!

Finally, my animal rights study group is wrapping up this weekend. We're all expected to prepare a presentation on a specific topic of our choosing based upon something that we've read during the three month time. Since Massachusetts is working on creating a law similar to California's Prop 2 which modified factory farming conditions, I decided to pull apart the Massachusetts proposition to find out just how much it would or would not impact farm animals. I am looking forward to tell you all about the group more and will hopefully have some photos soon (we always meet at a vegan restaurant where the food is super's tucked away on the second floor in this picture..whole in the wall but I love the food). And the really great news? One of my study group leaders was totally open to the idea of an online study group when I mentioned that several of my vegan blogger friends expressed to me that they wanted to learn more about what we are reading. So stay tuned!

Finally, tried a couple of new products this past weekend when I headed up to New Hampshire to visit my parents. I stopped by my favorite local health food store (okay, my favorite of all time!), Blueberry Fields.

I see a bright light...I am going towards the light..oh, and there's the freezer section..vegan ice creams and veggie burgers I've never heard of? This must be heaven...

Here I found Blue Mango Handmade Veggie Burgers from Portland, Maine. A little on the pricey side but delicious:
I also found So Delicious brand Coconut Milk..the kind I blogged about before that I wasn't able to find. Well, I found it finally and not in the city but in my rural-ish hometown. Go figure! It's thick and with a light, mellow coconut taste. I think it's going to be perfect for smoothies and recipes where you don't want a strong taste coming through from your milk. I liked it..I haven't tried it on cereal yet..that's the next big test!

And finally, I literally scooped up some Living Harvest Hemp Milk Ice Cream. I haven't tried Hemp Milk yet so the taste was brand new to me but different in a good sort of way..I'm still an almond milk to drink and coconut milk for ice cream kinda gal but this stuff is delicious. I tried the Mint Chip but the Coffee Biscotti is so mine next time I find myself at Whole Foods.

Yawn, stretch..time for bed! I'll be back soon..