Easy Breezy

Beautiful!  I apologize for letting ten whole days of complete silence from my part of the universe elapse.  Somehow almost a month of bar review has gone by.  If you know someone who has gone through or is currently going through bar study, give that person a hug.  It’s rough, people.

Fortunately, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by loving, caring individuals who help keep the wind in my sails.  Or at least a pleasant breeze.

Last weekend I went to New Jersey with the combined purpose of attending graduation parties, shopping for a wedding dress, and celebrating Father’s Day with my family.  It was nice to be with my loved ones, and to push my constant and extreme anxiety and exhaustion to the side to do “normal” things for a day or two.  Plus, I got to see this little bugaboo:
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What I wouldn’t give to sleep on a sunny patch of carpet all day.

As a bonus, on the drive home on Sunday, H and I pulled off of Route 95 and followed signs to Georgie’s Diner in West Haven, CT.  They have billboards on the highway advertising the fact that they have vegan and gluten-free food, so of course every time we make the drive between Boston and NJ I think about eating there.  Well, I finally did it.  And it was awesome.  I got the Tempeh Reuben sandwich with a side of vegetarian chili:
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Let me tell you, this place is a legit diner.
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And yet, it has an explicitly vegan section of the menu!!! It makes me SO HAPPY that places like this exist and are starting to pop up more and more frequently.  H and I had a long discussion about it over our meal, contemplating how easy and enjoyable it would be for everyone if more restaurants would just step up and create vegan menu items.  It’s hard to imagine that an omnivore restaurant would lose customers simply because they kept all of their standard fare but added a vegan section, as Georgie’s has done.  However, it’s pretty easy to imagine how making such a move would actually garner anywhere from a modest to substantial increase in customers, depending of course on the restaurant’s location and extensiveness of veg selection.  I’m just saying, it’s time to get with the twenty-first century, restauranteurs!

After returning from my NJ trip though, I stumbled into a really rough week.  My travels caused me to fall a little behind on my bar review, and honestly, I struggled with it and got really stressed out.  But an incredible act of kindness undertaken by my soon-to-be mother-in-law (A) put the wind back in my sails.

On Thursday afternoon, I got a call from A saying she was outside my apartment building.  I came down, all gross and frazzled in sweatpants and glasses, to accept this delivery:
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This was one hell of a care package.  Here it is unpacked:
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The contents included Strangozzi pasta, farmstand strawberries, cherries (my FAVE!), a huge salad (mixed greens, craisins, apples, and pecans) complete with a (separately packed) delicious tangy vinaigrette, olive foccacia, a bottle of Sangiovese wine, three bell peppers, polenta, white bean and kale soup, a jar of A’s homemade strawberry jam, two containers of homemade ratatouille, a large container of amazing homemade marinara sauce, two fun girly movies, and cheerful flowers. And even a vase to put the flowers in!

AND she went out of her way to make sure all the food was vegan!  If something like this didn’t make me smile, nothing would.  Thanks again, A!!

Having healthy, delicious food readily available is such a blessing. I really did initially think that bar studying would be scheduled enough that I would have the chance to prep and cook food regularly. What I didn’t count on was that during the scarce time each day when I’m not studying, I do not want to do anything. So having this food around is huge. Thursday night I had some of the pasta with sauce and ratatouille (sorry, no pic), and a piggishly large hunk of this incredible concoction:
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Drool.

For lunch both today and yesterday, I enjoyed a hearty helping of salad, a bowl of the white bean and kale soup, and a slice of olive foccacia.
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Great-tasting, healthy, satiating food that helps me power through studying!

Starting to see how lucky I am? If not, then consider this: my beautiful fiance surprised me with something extremely thoughtful last night.  He is away for the weekend on the Cape having a grand old bachelor party time, while I am home studying for this miserable exam.  And yet, last night at 7 p.m., my phone rang, and it was the delivery man from my heartsong, Peace O’ Pie (which I’ve posted about before)!  H had ordered me a Buffalo Chik’n calzone to be delivered while I studied.

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Holy doughy pocket of awesomeness.

I ate half of it last night, and half tonight.  Seriously delicious comfort food! It really is a good way to kick the blues.  And knowing that I have such wonderful, thoughtful people in my life really helps too.  One day, after this bar thing is over and done with, I will look back at this period of my life and have a recollection of general suckiness.  I will not remember what the abysmal problem set score was that sent me into tears, nor how many hours I studied each day.  I will, however, specifically remember the positive things–an unexpected care package or dinner delivery, a daily email of encouragement from my mom, a funny link from my sister–and that is what keeps me smoothly sailing. 🙂

Off now to relax with a chick flick and a glass of sangiovese!

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Ode to Whole Foods

Hooray!!! Photobucket is back up, I am (somehow) still awake, the Bruins are ahead 3-0, and I get to post about something that makes me very happy–food! Whole Foods food!

I am nowhere near the first blogger to sing the praises of the Whole Foods salad and hot food bars, nor will I be the last.

I know, I know, it’s expensive. But since the closest grocery store to my home is Whole Foods, and since I am perpetually short on time, I take advantage of their prepared food offerings from time to time.  It’s never a challenge to find something tasty and vegan, which makes popping in there quite an anxiety-free experience for me.

First I would like to share some photos of the WF lunch I enjoyed today following a 3.5+ hour lecture on Federal Jurisdiction and Procedure.  I deserved it.

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Purple Sweet Potato Tempura roll (it had yummy chopped peanuts all over it)

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SO beautiful!

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And a little Seaweed Salad for good measure

This was such a satisfying lunch–flavorful and full of many different flavors and textures.  I love their veggie sushi. I wish I could eat it every day but my wallet won’t allow that.  Also as a head’s up, they only provide enough soy sauce for maybe one piece, so make sure you grab extra packets or have a bottle in your fridge to tap.  Anyway, this was a very good bar review lunch–it picked up my mood and helped me power through a grueling afternoon.

I may or may not have mentioned this 948398 times before, but I love Indian food.  I wouldn’t call Whole Foods’ version “authentic”, but I do enjoy it, and I couldn’t resist when I spotted it on the hot bar one Friday at the Whole Foods near my internship. That location also has a huge and rockin’ salad bar. I went a little nuts:
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Mattar Gobi, along with Chana Masala, a little bit of brown rice, and a giant mixed salad (spinach, grilled red onion, grilled zucchini and yellow squash, grape tomatos, sliced white mushrooms, toasted pumpkin seeds, a couple of cloves of roasted garlic, bacuns [textured soy protein crumbles], and a tiny drizzle of balsamic).

Chana masala is my all-time favorite Indian dish if I had to pick one, but actually that day I was loving every morsel of the Mattar Gobi.  It was so good.  You could actually see the whole cumin seeds in the sauce.  Delicious.  The salad was really good too.  I had never had Bacuns before but I must say, I’m a fan. And in case anyone was wondering, I did not eat that outrageously large mountain of food all in one sitting. Nope…lunch AND dinner, my friends. I’m thrifty like that.

Finally, one more picture of a salad bar encounter I had in the not-too-distant past:
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This one contained tofu (teriyaki I think?), roasted beets and parsnips (my favorite part of the whole thing!), grape tomatoes, shredded zucchini and carrots, yellow pepper, artichokes, and chickpeas, on top of a base of mixed greens.

I threw this together in a serious hurry one night on my way to babysit.  It turned out to be awesome, despite the somewhat random mix of ingredients.  I’m pretty happy with what a beautiful rainbow those ingredients managed to create though!  This is why I love a WF salad…when all the ingredients are right there in front of me, I can eat the rainbow without having to think too much about it.

Alright, it’s bed time for real now. In the hope that my bar-induced psychosis is somehow amusing to anyone other than myself, I intend to devote my next post to some of the truly weird crap I have been cooking and eating at home on all those occasions (and they are many) when I don’t have the presence of mind to cross the street and go to Whole Foods.  Stay tuned.

No Go

I am so exhausted from all this bar business.  It is 8:30 on a Wednesday night and H is watching the Stanley Cup final (I like Boston sports but could care less about the Bruins…I mean, I hope they win but it really won’t affect my day tomorrow if they don’t), while I am fighting with all my might to not go to bed until it’s at least dark outside.  Just. So. Tired.

I had several delicious things to write about, but then Photobucket decided not to work so now I can’t post pictures.  No one wants to read a food blog that doesn’t have pictures.  And I guess I could just go to another photo hosting site right now and create an account and upload my photos so that I could post, but who am I kidding, I’m way too tired for that.  So tired that I can’t even be pissed off about my blogging plans being stymied.  I’m just bummed out.  Sad and mad.  And tired.

Fingers are crossed that I can post tomorrow.

Challah Back

With the second week of BarBri classes under my belt, I feel like a new woman.  That is to say, I have stepped into the shoes of someone whose emotional state is constantly in flux, threatening to go from buoyant jubilation to unbridled rage in the blink of an eye.  A new woman, indeed.  Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Right now, however, I am feeling quite calm and content.  I attribute this to two things: 1) I left today’s bar review class feeling for the first time like I actually know something that could potentially help me pass the exam, and 2) I just had lunch.  Weird, yes, but I’m finding that food preparation is a big comfort to me of late, because it is one of the few things over which I have total control, and that I can do confidently and free of judgment.

Plus, it gives me joy!  I mean, look at what I got today:
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This, my friends, is a vegan za’atar challah from Blacker’s Bakery in Newton.  Blacker’s is a kosher, pareve bakery.  According to kashrut, “pareve” refers to a category of foods that are neither dairy nor meat.  Sounds like vegan food, except that in Judaism “pareve” also extends to eggs and fish.  So unfortunately, though pareve baked goods may be dairy-free, they are usually loaded up with eggs.  However, Blacker’s is kind enough to produce egg-free challahs alongside their traditional egg-washed counterparts, and when I found out they had an egg-free za’atar variety, I could think of little else until I procured one for myself.  Today was the day.  I bought this baby while it was still warm from the oven.  There are few things better in life than warm freshly-baked bread, says I.

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Look at that gorgeous texture!  They do not skimp on the spices.

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Inside, there are swirls of za’atar goodness.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with za’atar, it is a spice mixture, commonly used in the Middle East. I am personally a huge fan.  I know it contains thyme and sumac and sesame seeds, but that’s about it.  My brain is too full of garbage law to try to recall the other ingredients, and I am far too lazy my computer is too slow to look it up right now.  You are welcome to rock a Googs if you’re curious.  But do take my word that it is delicious.

My lunch was a couple of slices of this magical challah topped with Tribe Forty Spices hummus and some chopped manzanilla olives:
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Salty, spicy, and satisfying.  And enough to make me not feel completely homicidal about the fact that I have to do a property problem set now.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Whopping Shopping

Day 5 of bar prep, complete.  Only 51 days to go–woooo!!!  Ugh.  Seriously, I cannot believe how exhausted I already am!  Even though law school amazingly does not in the slightest way prepare one to take this most important of exams, it luckily does turn one into a master of diversion and methods for taking mental breaks.  Case in point: today before sitting down for hours of practice essays, I commandeered H’s car and drove to Heaven Russo’s Market for a shopping bonanza.  For $19.85, here is what I got:
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A head of Romaine lettuce, a 2-lb. bag of yellow onions, two carrots, a giant parsnip, a jalapeno, a chunk of ginger, a head of cauliflower, 4 bananas, a 5-lb. bag of Yukon gold potatoes, a buttload of fava beans, a giant head of the most fragrant cilantro imaginable, two limes, a tomato, a giant beet bulb, an avocado, and a huge fresh Syrian flatbread.
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Not too shabby.

I know I’ve mentioned before how much I love Russo’s, but…dear Lord, I do love Russo’s.  It is a sprawling paradise of incredibly fresh and varied produce (including some things I’ve never heard of), yet somehow every time I go to the cash register, I get reverse sticker shock–disbelief over how little it costs.  The only possible drawback is how nauseatingly crowded it can get on the weekends.  It’s totally worth it; I just always make sure to swallow a heaping tablespoonful of patience before heading in there.

Anyway, now that I have all of this wonderful food in my kitchen, and a Sunday afternoon to myself, I’m excited to do some food prep for the week ahead.  I plan to eat a wonderful salad every day with the head of romaine I bought, so I’m going to roast the beet and shell the fava beans to throw into that, along with avocado, chopped carrots, and cilantro.  A very exciting prospect indeed!

I’m super-excited to eat the fava beans in particular. They’re waiting to be parboiled at the moment:
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Giant, perfect favas! I went for big, sturdy pods this time. Seriously, look at the size of this fava bean pod! (No, I didn’t take this picture just to show off my ring :))
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And check out the size of the flatbread.  This is it stretched over my stove:
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I used a pizza cutter to slice it into portions, which I wrapped in cling wrap and put in the fridge for H and I to use this week.  But not before I had a flatbread “pizza” for lunch:
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Spread with Tribe Forty Spices hummus and topped with artichokes, sundried tomatoes, and chili garlic sauce.  SO GOOD.

I’m also cooking tonight–yay!!!  Red Lentil and Cauliflower Curry from Veganomicon.  It’s going to make a giant vat of curry that H and I will be eating for days.  I’ll post the results later this week!

Finally, I want to briefly touch on something important that’s been on my mind.  I am approaching my three year blog anniversary (June 20th).  Though I have not always posted regularly since starting the blog (oh hay, 2010), it has always been important to me, and I love that it gives me a way to look back on so many great meals and memories.  And actually, the last time I went back to my 2008 posts, I started feeling really nostalgic, though it wasn’t clear why. Then, the other day, I read this post on Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog.  I realized that the thing I used to love the most about blogging, in fact the thing that made me want to start a blog in the first place, was my extreme newly-vegan enthusiasm for trying new foods and recipes from amazing cookbooks and blogs.  I don’t think the enthusiasm even went away, but I guess once law school started and my lifestyle changed so drastically, I just let it fall by the wayside.  When I picked up blogging again this past January, I thought that maybe changing the theme a little (to include restaurants and products I was trying) would help me regain my previous enthusiasm.  It did, to a certain extent, as my ensuing blogging regularity demonstrates.  However, from here on out, I want to place the ingredients and cooking, my true passions, at center-stage, and occasionally include the other stuff as extras.  Thanks, Katie, for helping me come to this realization–I had a lot of fun writing this post!

Going to the Dogs

Please forgive my absence; the last week and half was chock-full with my family in town for my graduation from law school, a weekend on Cape Cod with them and with H’s family, and then with the beginning of my bar review course today.

Bar review: the reason my summer is over before it even started.  For the next eight weeks, I will be spending about twelve hours a day doing nothing but enduring, to quote my friend K, “the most boring kind of hell imaginable.”  The downsides are numerous and obvious, but there are upsides too.  One of them is that I’ll actually have a real, predictable schedule for the first time in three years.  While stress-filled and tedious, it will allow me to fit in time to work out as well as to cook and eat great meals.  So, though I won’t be able to blog as often as I have done in the last couple of months, I will be posting.  In other words, I’m not going on hiatus, just blogging a little less until the bar is over.

After that, it’s time to plan a shotgun October wedding.  But that’s a story for another time… 🙂

The title of my post refers to some of the stuff I ate this past weekend while I was celebrating graduation, and not caring particularly about my waistline.

Thursday night, my brother J was in town, and H and I took him to one of our favorite bars to have a beer and play Big Buck Safari (not a very vegan game, I guess…but fun, and no real animals get hurt!).  After that, we headed down the block to Spike’s Junkyard Dogs for some late-night eats.  Oh, Spike’s.  What can I say?  It is a greasy spot that serves every kind of crap imaginable on top of a hot dog.  BUT…they do veggie dogs! Which makes me extremely happy!!!

This is what I got on Thursday:
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The one on the right is their classic “Junkyard Dog”: mustard, tomato, pickle, hot pepper rings, and chopped scallions.  I can’t recall the name of the one on the left, and it’s not on their regular menu, but as you can see, it had mustard, BBQ sauce, and a pickle on it.   Delicious.  The options for vegan toppings at Spike’s are way more limited than the ones they have for omnivores, but it’s still a great spot to go with a mixed crowd (or even all vegetarians!) because they actually care enough to include options for non-meat eaters.  Thumbs up, Spike’s.

My second helping of veggie dogs occurred unexpectedly on Sunday.  H and I were out on the Cape, and we drove to the beach where we got engaged last August to show it to my parents.  After that, my parents left to head back to New Jersey, while H and I headed back into town.  We took a scenic route, hoping to find a spot to grab some lunch.  Along Route 28 in Dennisport, I suddenly spotted this sign from the car:
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H said, “We’re going there!”

“There” ended up being a restaurant called Corinne’s Place.
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Cute little restaurant all decorated with old-fashioned gas station memorabilia.  It sounds weird, I know, but I think the place used to be a gas station back in the day so it was actually very charming.  And, like Spike’s, they serve vegan hot dogs!!! Here is what I got:
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One of them was just a veggie dog with veggie chili on top (their chili and baked beans are vegetarian!) and the other had onions, red relish, BBQ sauce, and sauerkraut, and I added a little bit of green relish after taking the picture.  DELICIOUS!  A little different from the texture I’m used to (i.e., Smart Dogs or Spike’s), but really good.  I’m definitely going back to this place.  There is not much in the way of vegan fare on the Cape, so I want to support a business that is branching out!