Black Pepper Game Changer and My First Recipe!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it (too) much but vegan cooking can tend towards the bland if you’re not careful.  Without dairy and meat fats and oils to “beef up” a dish, you really have to consider where your flavor is going to come from.  And I have to tell you guys, Black Pepper Sauce by My Crazy Vegan Kitchen changed the game.

I was Pinterest searching the other night for some veg burgers to make for a work camp outing (always interesting to camp with your co-workers …), I traveled down the rabbit hole and found the recipe in the link above.  I didn’t even end up putting it on a burger, but I’ve been putting it on Everything Else I Can Get My Hands On.  Case in point, the portabella cap and polenta in the image below.  Mouthwatering.  It would be great on any vegetable – broccoli, cauliflower, squash (zoodles …. mmmm!)  and paired with a black pepper sauced rice, you’re talking a Foodie Award.  (Is that a thing?  It is now.)

I think I also have my first recipe!  Our usual go-to recipe for weekend mornings or when there’s no other options for dinner goes something like this: Tofu + Can of Beans + Can of Rotel + Anything else in the kitchen + Wrapped in a tortilla.  We eat this a lot.  I was putting together a batch the other day but we didn’t have the usual suspects … and so I think I may have invented my first recipe.  I’m calling it Saucy Taco Salad.   However I didn’t know I was inventing greatness and so I took no photographs to document my culinary experience.  So here’s a recap:
CT’s Saucy Taco Salad:

For the Saucy Part:

Ingredients:
1 can vegetarian refried beans
1 can fire roasted and diced tomatoes
1 cup or less of corn (I have been using more white or shoepeg corn lately for a little variety)
2 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp brown sugar

1. Combine all the above items in a pan on medium heat.  Stir thoroughly and heat through.  Simple!

2.  To make the taco salad bowl, use an oven safe bowl (I used our enamelware camping bowls), lightly grease the bottom of the bowl and drape a tortilla over the bowl.  Bake/toast in the oven at 350 degrees until it seems crispy to your liking.  I think ours took about 5-7 minutes.

3.  Serve!  Fill the taco bowl with lettuce or some form of greens, fill with heaping spoonfuls of the saucy mix and top with whatever you have – we used raw onion and guacamole (the little single serve guacamole cups from Costco are the best.)  Cilantro and a sour cream replacement could work (I’ve make a cashew crema before that was pretty yummy).


Also, has anyone tried charcoal water?  One of our reps for work brought it in (he’s a super buff, marathon and yoga type guy and knows better than to bring donuts thank goodness).  It looks scary and you feel like your teeth will turn out India ink colored but it’s actually pretty good.

Cheers! CT

Adulting …

I don’t know where this ridiculous word came from but somehow it is a very apt description of what has been going on lately at the Living Analog abode.  It’s amazing how much of your time can be given over to such mundane but necessary tasks.  The dentist, the eye doctor, the dermatologist, the regular doctor … they all have been visited.

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(I like that my earrings showed up in the x-ray. And yes, I have horrible teeth.  Thanks genetics and a bike accident 22 years ago.)

Adulting has continued with some “super fun” home maintenance stuff including duct repair that we now know has been air conditioning the 170 degree attic for the last nine months or so.  This was discovered because we were in the “super fun” process of getting additional insulation quoted.  Nothing says adult like spending upward of $1700 on insulation for an attic that no one sees.  Between the duct fix, the insulation and the settings on our Nest, we’re hoping to see some decent savings on our electric bill.

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Which puts me at the last category of adulting – bills/money/financial know how.  We have now paid off two of our three student loans and are agressivly paying down the remaining one.  Our goal is for a debt-free life by the time we both hit the big 4-0 and I think we’re going to make it.
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We started using Mint.com (the above is a screen grab from their website, not our actual finances) and it has been helping us out a lot in the bills/budgeting department because it puts everything in one place and gives you a real-time view of your net worth.  It can be depressing sometimes but gives you the information you need to make decisions – adult stuff.

I’m not sure how I ended up at 35 when I still feel like I’m 25 but here we are.

A little icing on the adult cake was finally being able to sell the 1998 BMW I affectionately called “the fug” and move up to a Toyota Tacoma.  Now I can safely buy furniture again without worrying that  I won’t be able to get it home (like the excitement I had at Value Village a while ago).  The best part is that the truck is a 4×4 and we’ve been able to have a few off-roading adventures on the many back roads of Arizona.  So being an adult isn’t all bad after all.

Pretty much anywhere you park this thing in Arizona makes it look like it’s in a truck commercial.  Cheers – CT

Wrought Iron Was Here

We have conquered one more light fixture and moved a step forward out of wretchedness!  The nook that is currently our coffee chat/pantry area originally had this fixture which JT dubbed “The Octopus”.

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I had my eye out for replacement fixtures while we were looking for the living room ceiling fans but hadn’t found anything that was 100% “the one”.   Plus with the future use for this space changing at some point, I wasn’t quite ready to commit to a fixture.

JT is not as commitment-phobic as I am (which is a good thing for me I guess!) and while we were at Lowe’s picking up a vacuum cleaner that could handle massive amounts of dog hair AND stairs (adjusting to life on two stories!), we saw a display of interesting light fixtures.  And we bit.

JT was happy to take down the Octopus (he went to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore along with the original ceiling fans) and up went the new fixture.  I can’t find it online now but I’m pretty sure it is by Allen + Roth for Lowes.

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It has the trendy Edison bulb which we have on a dimmer so we can set the light level.  It was only $80 which isn’t bad for a decent light fixture.  I like that it is clear so it doesn’t distract from our view out the window to the mountain.  But it has one little kink in the cord that no amount of adjusting could fix.  I was hoping that it would “hang out” – that over time and with the steady pull of gravity this would correct itself but it has been a few months and that tiny kink is still there.   So it’s probably not a forever light but it’s so nice to have the wrought iron gone and one less ugly light fixture hanging around.

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Let’s just crop out the pantry shelves and look at our little nook like this for now …  Happy Friday!  It’s going to be 115 degrees here today!  Stay cool – CT

 

Night Lights

One thing I didn’t talk about too much when I debuted our new art was the picture lights.  I searched high and low for just the right thing and never quite found what I was looking for – so I MacGuyvered up a solution.

I was looking for picture lights that were a) affordable and b) white.  Affordable large art lights were surprisingly hard to find.  I finally stumbled up these at Shades of Light (not the best picture but all they had on their website so I took a leap of faith).

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I got out my trusty spray paint and sprayed them matte white so they would blend in with the wall and not fight with the other metal finishes we have going on in the room.  The lights mount to the actual canvas and then we used two screws at the outer corners to mount the canvas to the wall and allow space for the cord to travel down the middle.  They’re hooked to an extension cord behind the bookcase so one flip of the power cord switch and both lights come on.

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And voila, we have art lights.  The cords peek out at the bottom of the canvases but are mostly hidden behind the record storage unit and camouflaged by the tchotchkes sitting on top.  So in the evening we have a nice glow in the living room and a subtle highlight to the art pieces we worked so hard to create!

Cheers – CT

 

 

Vegan Eats, Tiny Kitchen Edition

When I mentioned in the last post that our kitchen is so tiny, we would just keep getting take out until we renovated it, I was only halfway kidding.  Both JT and I work four (more than) ten-hour days and healthy, from-scratch cooking at the end of those days (in a tiny kitchen) just wasn’t always happening.  Add on top of that my study schedule for the NCIDQ (still no results yet — arrggh!) and I was happy that we found someone to cook for us.  That’s right folks, we have a personal chef…. sort of.  I convinced JT to accompany me to the 4th Annual Vegetarian Festival a while back in Scottsdale and learned of a local company called “The Vegan Taste

 

Every other Monday a cooler arrives at our front door with fully cooked all-vegan meals in individual portions.  I just stick the menu on the fridge and pick out a labeled Tupperware to reheat for my dinner.  JT does the same and we can even have different things for dinner on the same night (gasp!).  It’s been great.

On the non-delivery weeks we cook.  I try to do a lot of the prep work on the weekends to make it easier on the weeknights.  Here’s a few of our favorite tried and true recipes we love:

Eggplant Meatballs (with pasta and a spicy red sauce) from SkinnyTaste
Creamy Coconut Garlic Mushrooms (also could be with pasta or  spiralized squash … yep, we’ve been spiralizing and it’s great!) from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
Chipotle Mac and Cheese (I guess we have a pasta theme going on … I swear we eat more than just pasta!) from the Post Punk Kitchen
Deconstructed Falafel Bowl from Vegan Yack Attack
Thai Peanut Sauce Spaghetti Squash from Leelalicious
Pesto Tortilla Round-Ups from Vegan in the Freezer (great for lunches)

For more ideas and to see what we’ve tried out, check out my Pinterest board here.

In other vegan news, eggs!

I tend to steer clear of the meat and cheese replacers – the fake products are often very processed and I don’t really like the taste of meat anyway so I’m not too interested in a fake meat.  However I saw a vegan egg product at our local Sprouts store that I thought I might try …

It came in a cute little 4 pack egg cardboard carton but what was actually in the carton was the bag of powder … When mixed with cold water as directed, it did actually have that sulfurous smell of eggs but more the consistency of a cornbread batter.  I mixed it up into a kind of huevos rancheros breakfast burritos but at the end of the day I think my opinion of replacement products holds up.  This is not something you could probably ever convince a non-vegan to eat and there are so many yummy other ingredients you could mix in with the beans (rice, avocado, roasted corn, chipotle salsa …) that I don’t think the fake eggs make the cut.  I did however use them as an egg substitute in a cookie that I made for work (Gooey butter cookies also with vegan cream cheese and pea protein margarine) and they were a hit – no one realized they were secretly vegan.  Probably because they were covered in sugar.

So that’ s what’s going on in our tiny kitchen.  Any other must try vegan recipes I need to know about?  Cheers – CT

 

 

 

 

 

When Plans Change

As I mentioned the other day, we had an initial plan for our first floor when we moved in and after having lived here for a year and making some furniture investments, it has all shifted.

We knew from Day One that the kitchen was too small.  It didn’t seem to fit in a 3 bedroom, 1600 sf house – JT and I are a family of two and it’s small even for us.  But we had a tiny kitchen in St. Louis (remember that guy, he was in the Small Cool contest once upon a time!) so we knew it could make it work.  And with real estate, you know the saying – location, location, location.  With a mountain in our backyard, we had location covered.

Here’s our first floor plan when we moved in.

\ADMFS1redirectedcthompsonMy DocumentsCT MISC4327CCORRALI took some more photos of the kitchen today just to illustrate its postage stamp size.

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And don’t forget the boob lights – a matched pair!

Often when we are cooking in here (especially on the weekend when I like to prep a few meals at a time, the counter can be entirely taken over.

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Like so.  Bad picture but you get the idea.  This tiny kitchen gave us just enough cabinet space for our dishes and cookware but nowhere to go with all our food, spices and baking supplies.  So the breakfast nook became the pantry.

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When we were buying the house, I had my eye on the wet bar as the solution to our floor plan conundrum.  Standing at the wet bar, you’re within steps to either the kitchen sink or the first floor half bath sink.  So a wet bar sink didn’t seem all that necessary. Here’s a photo for reference (because this post is going to need more photos …)

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I envisioned walling it off towards the living room, and turning it into a large pantry accessible from the hallway side.  One side of the wet bar is already a coat closet and since we currently have all three of our coats (used mainly for skiing in Flagstaff rather than used in Phoenix) in the laundry room, I thought we could open it all up into one large closet/pantry.  I had dreams of an appliance garage and a mobile baking station and hiding oodles of clutter behind some kind of funky barn door system.

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I still think this plan works well for the space it makes in the living room.  Haha, I just saw that my plan is mislabeled – copy/paste wins again – and there really isn’t a dining component in the living space in this option.  I thought once we walled off the back of the wet bar, we would hang the TV there and make a cool fauxdenza or some sort of media wall.  Then there could be a desk by the patio window.  In the breakfast nook I was planning a counter height or bar height large table with a butcher block top so it could be used as additional counter and food prep space.  This solves a lot of problems with minimal cash outflow (of course at some point I would still love new appliances, countertops and cabinets also ….)

And then one day JT and I were talking about how lucky we were to live next to a mountain and wondering how it came to be that our house ever sat empty on the market for as long as it did.  And we came to the same conclusion – it had to be the kitchen size.  And a new floor plan idea came to life that may actually solve this conundrum.

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In this scenario, the dreaded wet bar and associated coat closet get demolished entirely.  It would mean all new flooring through out this level (good-bye dreary dirt brown floors!)  We would blow out the wing walls around the current U-shape kitchen and open it up as much as possible.  There is still a jut-out in the shape of the floor plate so we would turn that into a nook filled with a 24″ wide all refrigerator, base cabinets and a 36″ wide under counter two door freezer.  The windows in the breakfast nook now go below the counter height so we would have to replace the windows there.  And since we would have to replace the window, I would go down to a 5′-0″ opening so we could have a 24″ wide tall pantry to mirror the fridge.  Continuing into the existing U-shape foot print, we would have one piece of wall blank where we could hang our pots and pans on a rail (I really loved the ease of access for that in our last house.)  I would be able to center the sink on the window (it makes me crazy that it’s off center now) and move the dishwasher to the other side so it wouldn’t be so in the way when it’s open.  I would keep the range in the same location and I think maybe open shelves or some kind of cool upper cabinets would go on that wall that would tie into a proper range hood.   Then we would extend the counter out into the living space so we could have stools on the other side and the person in the kitchen isn’t cut-off from the living space so much.  Opening up the kitchen like this also makes room for an island.  I think we would just do a furniture one versus a built-in but OMG – so much more storage in this option, even though we would lose a wall of upper cabinets.

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And if it could end up looking like this house (in Australia, of course) designed by Corben Architects and found here, that would be pretty amazing too.  As you can see, this is a big dream that would involve a decently big budget so we need to figure out our next steps.  Right now I’m just going to get take out and forget we even have a kitchen.

Cheers – CT

 

Life with Art

The universe seems to be sending a message lately … one that I’m not sure we’re all receiving.  Losing Prince so soon after the also untimely passing of David Bowie is a cruel reminder that no matter our level of cultural impact or creative endeavor, we all pass on from this life at sometime, either sooner or later.  At the same time, I find myself all too easily sucked into the world happening inside my phone rather than present in this physical place.  And so, in light of the omnipresent reality that life is indeed fleeting, and that I shouldn’t worry what others may think of my attempt at modern art, here is our latest foray.

Plus, we needed something for these big blank walls.

Pardon the dog fort in the corner, Shenanigan had managed to get every one of his blankets and pillows and “things” all piled up in one princess and the pea sort of pile.

So JT and I made these big canvases from scratch – we bought and cut the lumber, screwed together a frame, stretched canvas over it (cut from a dropcloth from Home Depot), gessoed it until it resembled a store-bought artist canvas and then watched some YouTube tutorials (especially the Peter Dranitsin tutorials like this one) and set up a paint workshop in the garage.

JT and I picked out the paint colors together and then set to work.  He did one of the canvases and I did the other – can you guess which of us did which one?  (We’ve been keeping it a secret.)  Without meaning it, they came out with some elements that remind me of South Mountain in our backyard.

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You might remember from one of my last posts that we originally intended to hang the art on the wall that has the new giant TV on it.  And we had the Danish daybeds downstairs.  But in true Living Analog form, we shook it all up, moved the daybeds to the music room and ordered a new sofa from Gus Modern.  And once the new sofa arrived, our 32″ TV looked so sad, so we brought in the 55″ monster.

The new sofa, the Margot, has been great.  It came with a set of both brass and black legs so we can change those out later if we want.  In our original ideas for the first floor layout, we thought we would wall off the wet bar and turn it into a pantry.  The TV would then have hung on that new infill.  However one day a new kitchen remodel idea came to me and it involves mostly demolishing this thing and so we went ahead and hung the TV to account for the new floor plan and future (very future) kitchen reno. I’ll share more in a blog post about the great floor plan switcheroo.

Here’s another view of the room.  I’m still debating on what else to hang/do to the TV wall and also I eventually want to switch out the record storage.  We need to find a bench for the dining room table too but it’s a weird dimension (it has to be 42″ long to sit inside the table legs) so we might end up making that as well.

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So, to conclude a strange and rambling post, remember to stop and smell the roses.  Or paint yourself some art.  Or switch around your whole living room plan when a better idea comes your way.  Life’s too short to get hung up on the comparisons and worries.  At least that is what I am telling myself.  Cheers – CT