WordPress Issues?

Hey all, happy Friday!

I’m just checking in from mobile to let you know that I haven’t posted this week because I’ve been having a ton of problems trying to access, let alone log into, wordpress.com. It’s super-frustrating because I actually have a bunch of blogs ready to go, but no way to post them at the moment.

Is anyone else having a similar problem?? Or know how to fix it??

It appears to be a security issue, where Chrome says it can’t connect to the “real WordPress,” while Explorer just won’t connect to the page at all.

I thought maybe it was caused by the security settings on my work computer, but today I’m on a public computer and having the same problem 😦 WTH??

Anyway, enough bitching from me. I hope everyone has a terrific weekend! I will be spending mine on Cape Cod with my handsome husband, perfect fur-babies, sunshine, and cherries. All. The. Cherries.
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A. Cook for Six Years

I can hardly believe I’m saying this, but today is my six year blog anniversary!
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To celebrate, I think I’ll eat A.Cookie (har har).

Last year on my five year I had a lot to say about the path my blog had taken up to that point, but it’s pretty amazing how much things ramped up in the year that has gone by since then!

This year, participating in blogger events like Vegan MoFo and Virtual Vegan Potluck really got me to step out of my comfort zone and start interacting more with the incredible and vast community out there.  I discovered so many new blogs and friends (just check out the size of that list in the righthand toolbar!) and this really helped to keep me motivated to post regularly (something with which I had majorly struggled in the past).Vegan Week 003

I finally found the confidence to create and post some of my own recipes (and now have enough of them [though still a very modest amount!] to share on their own page).  I hosted my first (and second and third!) giveaway.  I had a guest blogger.  I got awesome free stuff to review (woo hoo!).Spicy Spotlight 010
Sesame Tamari Roasted Brussels Sprouts featuring Dragon’s Blood Elixir hot sauce

I took some amazing vegan voyages (in DC, Richmond, and L.A.).RVA 016
Tofu Po Boy and veggie chili from 821 Cafe in Richmond, VA

I also began to branch out past my own little corner of the Internet by contributing blogs at Chic Vegan.  I created a Facebook page and Instagram account, and became much more active on Twitter.Skull Cakes 2 007
Spooky Skull Cakes seen on Chic Vegan, October 2013

AND I finally purchased my domain name acookinthemaking.com!!!

Needless to say, I am very excited about everything that has happened in the last year and want to say thanks to all the awesome bloggers and other visitors who make this such a fun thing to do 🙂  Here’s to the next six!!

Recap: Trip to Los Angeles, CA & Crossroads Kitchen

Hello there, friends! I am finally settling back into a normal sleep and work schedule after getting back my first-ever trip to the West Coast this past weekend! Specifically, we spent 3 whirlwind days in sunny Los Angeles.

I’ve always imagined L.A. (and Cali in general, I suppose) as kind of a vegan utopia with an avocado tree in every backyard and a farmer’s markets on every corner.  I’m still not sure whether or not my vision is accurate, because the main purpose of the trip was not, for once, to stuff my face, but in fact to attend the Christening of H’s godson!

We did also manage to pack in a bunch of sightseeing and great eating too (for a spoiler alert, see the post title).  Unfortunately, I ended up not taking as many pictures as I would have liked, mainly due to the fact that my phone perpetually seemed to be on the verge of dying. I guess that’s what happens when you travel somewhere where GPS is needed 24/7!  But I did capture the main highlights of sightseeing and vegan awesomeness, so enjoy!

Friday
H and I hit the road at 3:30 on Friday morning to get to the airport for our 6 a.m. flight. It was a bit miserable, but it did mean that we got a full day in LA because we were out of the plane by 9:30 a.m. Pacific time.

The first thing we did was to check out the Santa Monica pier.
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Love the selfie photobomb going on in the corner…

It was fun and reminded me of Coney Island, except with a different ocean! We dipped our feet in the Pacific…
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…and saw some cool birds!
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Then we drove out to Pasadena to meet our friends at the Golden Road Brew Pub, which has a fantastic vegan selection! It was really hard to choose, but I ended up going with the Fried Roman Artichokes:
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And the Tostada Salad (that’s jackfruit carnitas on top!):
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YUM!

Plus H got to meet his godson for the first time 🙂
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How cute is he?! (The baby is okay too I guess…)

We spent the majority of the rest of the day with our friends, then we checked into our hotel and I was passed out before 7 p.m. PST.

Saturday
I woke up at 4 a.m. (BOO jet lag!!!) and poor H wasn’t far behind. We decided to drive out to San Dimas for a little pilgrimage…
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Strange things are afoot…

And then headed into Hollywood to see the stars and sign.
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It was fun and I’m glad we did it even though I usually prefer WAY less touristy things.

After that we checked out the Hollywood Farmer’s Market briefly. I got a giant deli pickle!
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Then we headed down to San Pedro to meet up with H’s great-uncle and aunt at a waterfront dining spot. No pictures because my phone was dead by this point. Next it was back up to Pasadena to watch some World Cup with our friends. At their house, I opened up the gorgeous (and EXPENSIVE) dragon fruit that H and I bought at the farmer’s market.
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I love dragon fruit! I haven’t had any since I visited Vietnam in 2004 so I was extremely excited to see it for sale at the farmer’s market.

Saturday was another early night so that we could be well-rested for the main event—godson’s baptism!—on Sunday.

Sunday
Well as you might expect, the majority of Sunday was spent with our friends and their beautiful new son, first at church and then at their friends’ house for a party with lots of gorgeous vegan platters!

Mediterranean!
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Roasted veggies!
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Avocado and veggie sandwiches! (Note: some of the sandwiches had a sprinkle of cheese but most were vegan.)
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BUT…I went easy on these because I was saving room for my most-anticipated part of the trip—our dinner reservation at Crossroads Kitchen!
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OMG you guys. This was just as good if not better than I imagined. Here’s what H and I had:

Cocktails
I had heard that the cocktails here were not to be missed. H had The Escapist and later the Moscow Mule.
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I had The Humble Braggart.
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They were so different than anything we’d ever had before, thoughtfully presented, and so delicious!

First Course
Lentil flatbread with 3 spreads (leek pate, fava bean spread, and spicy tomato banana pepper jam).
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All were delicious (and the pepper jam was spicy!) but we both liked the leek pate the most.
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Second Course
I had the Cream of Fava Bean and English Pea soup.
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H had the Spiced Chickpeas.
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I enjoyed the soup very much, and H liked the chickpeas, though we both agreed I make equally delicious chickpea dishes at home 🙂

Third Course
H had the Risotto Stuffed Banana Pepper.
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I had the Crab Cakes (made from hearts of palm).
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Both of these entrées were stunning and outstanding. The risotto was incredibly creamy, and really complemented the spicy, tart banana pepper. The crab cakes had the most perfect texture, and the beet and apple topping was, again, a perfect complement. That was one of the biggest things I noticed about everything we tried—it just seemed like an amazing amount of care and attention had gone into creating every dish to make sure that the balance of flavors and textures were just right.

Dessert
We shared the Ginger Beer Float. They make their ginger beer in house!
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It was a lovely, refreshing end to a perfect meal.

I was seriously sorry that we couldn’t try everything on the menu. H even asked if I was sure I didn’t want to order one or two more small dishes to share, since who knows when (if ever) we’ll be back. But we were beyond stuffed and I think we ordered the right amount of food.

Well, after Crossroads it was time to drive to the airport for our trip home, which left at 10 p.m. (arriving back in Boston at 6 a.m. EST Monday morning). Monday was a day to catch up on much-needed sleep! Frankly, so was Tuesday…

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Review: Vegan Cuts May Snack Box

Many of you are probably familiar with Vegan Cuts, a fantastic company that operates sort of like a Groupon or LivingSocial for vegans (meaning that you can get great deals and discounts on all sorts of fun foods, beauty products, and other fun vegan stuff).

Maybe you also know that Vegan Cuts also offers a monthly subscription service for both snacks and beauty products.  Basically, each month, you receive a treasure chest of surprise goodies delivered right to your front door–how cool is that?!

Recently I was offered the opportunity to review the Vegan Cuts May Snack Box, which I enthusiastically accepted!
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Long story short: the Snack Box service is AWESOME.  Here is the low-down on each of the items that came in my box:

Nature’s Bakery Lemon Fig Bar
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LOVE.  Lightly sweet, very subtle but lovely lemon flavor, like a Fig Newton but WAY better.

SuperEats Kale + Chia Chips

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These were pretty good.  The taste reminds me a little of spanakopita (weird, right? But tasty!).  Nice crunch, not too salty.  Definitely good enough to satisfy a chip craving, but way healthier.  One bag has 180 calories, 6g fiber, 6g protein, 105% Vitamin A and 120% Vitamin C.

Beanfields Ranch Chips
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I had heard a lot about these prior to trying them, and I can tell you they live up to the hype.  They have everything you could want in a chip: crunch, body, saltiness, and tons of flavor.

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Unfortunately this one was a complete and utter fail.  In theory it’s an incredibly easy and quick way to get homemade pizza dough (just add seltzer and olive oil to the mix and let it rise for up to 10 hours, then roll it and bake!).  Well, I followed the directions, and the dough did rise, but somehow it was far too sticky to handle.  I could barely get it off my fingers, so rolling it into a ball was out of the question.  Total waste 😦

Meatless Select Vegetarian Taco Filling
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Yum–this was excellent!  Great texture, extremely easy to prepare, and very well-seasoned.  Usually I expect to add seasonings to something like this, but there was no need. [P.S. – This is the meat substitute I used in my delicious, lazy Taco Salad last week!]

Bonelli Simply Sesame spread
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Oh goodness, I LOVED this. It was creamy and sweet (but not too sweet) and made a perfect afternoon snack (with staying power!) on a piece of Ezekiel toast. I also love the fun, portable little packet it comes in! I can see so many more fun uses for this, and if I see it in a store I am going to snatch it right up.

Jyoti Appeteasers Indian Savory Snack Mix
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This was a really interesting and tasty snack! Lots of different textures and distinct flavors.  It definitely has a sweet element to accompany the savory, and is mildly spicy.  I enjoyed it; my only qualm was that the minuscule size and irregular shape of the pieces made it hard to pick them out of the bag to eat.  Instead I had to sort of pour some out into my palm and eat it by the handful. Fortunately no one was around to frown at my poor manners 🙂

Saffron Road Rogan Josh Simmer Sauce
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Saffron Road is not a vegan company but the majority of their premade simmer sauces are vegan.  I chose not to snap a photo for you of the package for the Rogan Josh because it contains a picture of a meat dish.  Shame, because the sauce is absolutely PERFECT for veggies!  I made an extremely delicious curry out of it, using half of a red onion, two cloves of garlic, half a head of cauliflower, a can of chickpeas, and one bunch of fresh spinach.  The sauce has lots of flavor so I didn’t need to add any additional seasonings, however it is not very spicy so I did throw in a generous helping of Vesta to liven it up.  With the cooking laziness I’ve been experiencing lately, I could see myself using this or other Saffron Road simmer sauces frequently for their convenience and great taste.

Pearls black pitted Olives to Go!
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What a cute and convenient snack this one is!  If you like black olives you can’t go wrong with this one.  The only thing that’s kind of weird is that the package says there’s 2.5 servings (each serving being 4 olives) inside…why not just make the serving size 1?  It’s 10 olives (40 calories)!

Jiva Hot Chocolate
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Inside the adorable little packet is a compressed cube (well, more of a rectangle) of hot chocolate mix!  You simply boil some milk, drop it in, let it sit for a minute, then stir, and you have a delicious, creamy mug of vegan hot chocolate!  Love this!  I could totally see myself popping a few of these into my purse to enjoy when I’m on the go.

The Bottom Line
The overall experience of a Vegan Cuts Snack Box is outstanding.  I consider myself an adventurous vegan and I tend to enthusiastically buy and try new products whenever I see them (case in point).  However, every last thing in this box was totally new to me!  And, with the exception of one unfortunate failure, I enjoyed every last one.

In sum, this is a fun and innovative way to expand your horizons, try some new things, and find some new favorites each month.  I would recommend it to both newbie vegans as a way of discovering joy and variety in vegan eating, as well as to seasoned vegan vets who love trying new things.  If you’re like me, anyway, you derive a lot of pleasure from watching the universe of vegan options continue to expand and prosper!

Food Assembly for Incredibly Lazy People

Well, my streak of being boring and lazy continues, even as the weather has somewhat improved in my part of the world.  For whatever reason, I still cannot find the motivation or inspiration to get out my knives and pans and actually cook something.  At times like these, I essentially have three options.

1) Requiring the barest minimum of effort, I can go out and buy something to eat:
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…which is tasty, though not the healthiest or cheapest option.  Btw this is a close-up of yucca fries from the Whole Foods hot bar–SO AMAZINGLY GOOD.  Like a cross between a french fry and a donut.

2) Also requiring little to no effort, I can have something pre-packaged that I only have to heat and serve:Amys
…also not the healthiest or most economical way to eat.

3) Or I can muster enough gumption to at least assemble something decent to eat!  Lately I’ve been trying to shame myself into trying to put something together most days.  Some recent examples:

Breakfast
Of course, the ultimate exercise in food assembly is a smoothie. Even on my most apathetic mornings, I can usually find it in me to put things in cup and hit a button.
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This one was a lovely cherry-chocolate concoction. I gave myself bonus points for color-coordinating it with my outfit.

Assembly: blend stuff.

This morning I assembled what I am taking the extreme liberty of calling a Breakfast Quesadilla.  There is no semblance of queso in this and so the name is based only on its appearance and the fact that a corn tortilla has a vague connection to Mexican food.
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Assembly: simply spread on PB&J, add half a sliced banana, then fold over and go.

Lunch
The laziest tofu sandwich of all time, using pre-baked SoyBoy Tofu-Lin tofu (because God knows I’m not baking my own tofu these days), reduced-fat Veganaise (which I am in LOVE with btw), and romaine lettuce, on an Arnold’s whole wheat flax sandwich thin.
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Assembly: spread Veganaise on one half of sandwich thin and cover with romaine.  Slice one block of Tofu-Lin in half, then in half again, and place it on the romaine.  Cover it with the other half of the sandwich thin.  Done.

Dinner
Lazy pizza. Everything is storebought except the cheese sauce (I used Jackie’s, which I now just keep on-hand in the fridge at all times).
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Assembly: Preheat oven. Spread some sauce around the crust then toss on some toppings (I used jarred roasted red peppers and manzanilla olives). Bake it and then pour cheese sauce on top.  Not gonna lie, this was tasty as hell.

Ten-minute (or less) taco salad.
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Assembly:  Warm up a meatless taco filling (I used Meatless Select…review coming next week).  While it’s warming, chop and rinse some romaine.  Once it’s warm, put the romaine in a bowl, add taco filling, salsa, sliced avocado or guacamole (I used this two-ingredient one—avocado + NW Elixirs Verde Hott), and cheesy sauce (Jackie’s again).  Add taco sauce for dressing and some tortilla strips if desired.

You could use lentils cooked with taco spices as the meatless filling but again, that would require cooking. In the interest of full disclosure, I did actually *make* the tortilla strips in the salad above. This grand culinary endeavor consisted of brushing a corn tortilla with olive oil, sprinkling it with cumin and salt, and sticking it in the oven until I was ready to break it apart and eat it.

I really can’t tell you how I became this lazy.  For now I’m just rolling with it, in the hope that once our farmer’s markets open up again, I will be reinvigorated and find some fresh cooking inspiration.  Cross your fingers for me!!