Monday, November 26, 2012

Spinning Clouds into Happiness

I'm more of the 'dip a toe in the water first before cannonballing into the hot springs from Dante's Peak' kinda gal. So, when it comes to deciding WHAT THE HELL I WANT TO DO WITH MY LIFE, my resume is quite diverse. I tinker in something, don't love it, and move on.

My bachelor's degree is in fine art, with a minor in writing. The minor is mostly due to requirements of my choice of major (I had to choose a minor), but it is also my 'second choice', so to say. I flopped between a number of majors before making up my mind. Began in Animal Science in order to get into Biotechnology. Then I realized I am worse at math than Barbie. Switched to writing, which is what I have been told since I was young that I should be doing. I quickly grew bored of it, complete with my usual writer's block, and moved on to Political Science. Got out of that after a year of losing what little bit of rose left on my political glasses rubbed off, and went back to english. Floated there until I looked long and hard at the offerings of my university. I asked myself the big questions; if I could do ANYTHING, what do I want to do? I saw art classes. My first thought was, 'That isn't academics, that is just for fun!' Aha! If I could do ANYTHING, I wanted to do what was FUN.

So I did. Hands down, the best two years of my academic days. Best grades I had all through college. I had previously struggled to stay afloat in classes that couldn't hold my interest. But when I enjoyed and was interested in the subjects, the grades followed. English was a first choice because it has always been easy for me, not because I always enjoyed it. I just seem to have a knack for it, and am good at telling stories. Hell, sometimes I even enjoy that too! But, mostly, I have to be forced to write, either by a class or by a nagging story in my brain that wants to be told. I can't just sit down and stream bullshit without a plan, and I am terrible at planning...

My inability to plan, of course, comes back to my choice in major. Didn't quite think that one through. Sure, art is fun, but my original reason for avoiding it in college still held true; there is no future in it. It is fun. Yay. Hope you think waiting tables is fun too! That is why I originally chose a major in a budding field (science and technology) dealing with something I like (animals). Would it have been fun? Maybe. I like animals, I like computers, I like science and technology. But the reality is I wouldn't be getting paid to watch silly animal tricks on Youtube. I would be in a cubicle, or one scientist in a lab of hundreds, doing repetitive remedial tasks day in and day out. Is that better than doing repetitive, remedial tasks in a kitchen? The pay is better. But in terms of personal fulfillment... all things are equal. Both would have led to their own regrets about my collegiate choices. Damned either way, it seems. I chose the path of instant satisfaction, now I am back to where I started.

So where do I go now? I would love to get paid to tinker in someone's workshop, but that is no longer a reality for me. It isn't a realistic goal either. I technically paid THE UNIVERSITY to tinker around in their workshops, and they patted me on the head in return. I am told to just 'go ahead and do what you love.' Great, you have $35k to spot me for a workshop, a place to put the workshop, materials, and running cost to get me started? Just like writing, I sling some paint and get myself frustrated and disgusted, then abandon it for something else. So goes my life.

So here is my crossroads. I like stuff. Creative stuff. Yay, go me. I have nothing to show for it other than a few decent projects from university. My resume is a mish-mash of entry level jobs that never quite pay the bills and have only bought me time. I can blather on and on about my work ethic, my interests, what kind of shampoo I like, but it means nothing in the job world. What have I done with my life? Nothing. What do I want from life? Happiness. Everything. Nothing. World peace. Personal peace. Love. Art. Passion. Fun. But, mostly, happiness. Who cares? Not employers.

Make my own job, that is what M Monster keeps telling me. What job would that be? A courier for the clouds? Interstellar delivery driver? A server for the rich and famous on Parsonus 9? Cooking for Daleks? My head is in the clouds, and I can't get out. My happiness, my very soul of being, lies in imagination. Being everywhere but here. I can't write, I can't create, because I am too far away, floating and drifting. I suck at jobs that require me to be here, right now, because I always go somewhere I would rather be, in a time I would rather be. I float into places I don't want to be as well, and live with oogabs of regret, remorse, and pain. I can't let bad things go, and there is no room for good things to move in.

So here I am, spinning in circles, on my own cloud, on my own planet, in a solar system located in a galaxy far, far away, in the distant future a time long ago...

Is there any hope of every finding anyone else out here? Of finding my place, a sense of belonging, a home? Or am I going to be spinning these clouds for the rest of my life, laboring away for nothing in return?

At least I wrote something today, even if it was just another ridiculously fantastical and ramble-y blog post. I created something tangible... at least, as tangible as these things can get with me. Today was a good day.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Asian Glass Noodles with Tofu and Wood Ear Mushrooms

I went to the farmer's market today and found... FRESH WOOD EAR MUSHROOMS!

I had no idea what to use them with! But a generous basket for $3.50 was too great of a deal to pass up on a hard to find item.

I googled some recipes, and came up with mostly soups. I finally found this recipe on, and liked the sound of a good stir fry for dinner!

Add on the fresh carrots, onion, garlic, and green onion from the farmer's market, homemade chili oil with garden-fresh hot peppers, homemade veggie stock, and we had a really awesome garden-fresh Asian stir fry!

-150g Glass Noodles
-1 package (14oz or so) of extra firm Tofu, pressed, and thinly sliced into roughly 2 inch long strips
-1/4 cup or so of thinly sliced green onion leaves
-1 - 2 carrots, julienned
-3 tbsp minced garlic
-1 large onion, thinly sliced in roughly 2 inch long strips
-1 loosely packed cup of wood ear mushrooms, thinly sliced in strips
-1 bay leaf
-2 tbsp annatto seeds
-2-4 cups veggie stock
-3 tbsp sesame oil
-2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (I had a nice red pepper version, but regular is fine too!)
-4 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tbsp vegan oyster sauce (I was out of the vegan type, but it exists!)
-1-2 tbsp hot chili oil (use more if it is weak stuff, less if it is strong)
-garlic salt, to taste
-fresh black pepper, to taste

Add sesame oil to wok on low-medium heat. Add annato seeds and cook until the color has left the seeds and gone into the oil. Remove the seeds with a slotted spoon.

Raise heat to medium-high and add tofu and garlic. Cook tofu until it is golden brown and crisp on outside. Reduce heat to medium and add onion. Cook until transparent. Add carrots, soy sauce, and oyster sauce, and fry about 1 minute.

Remove everything from pan and set aside. Add 2 cups of veggie stock and bring to a boil. Add noodles and bay leaf, reduce to a simmer, and cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Check often, stirring as needed, and adding more stock as needed to keep noodles wet.

Remove and discard bay leaf. Add veggies and tofu back in the pan, along with mushrooms, chili oil, garlic salt, and pepper (to taste). Cook on low heat about 5 minutes, adding more stock if noodles dry out. Deglaze with rice vinegar in the last minute. Remove from heat and immediately stir in green onion leaves. Serve hot and fresh!

M monster went gaga over this! He loved it! We had the nice vegan fudge for desert. :) Perfect!

Vegan Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Ok! So I modified a recipe I found in the penny saver. It has peanut butter, one of M monster's favorites :)

The recipe was called 'Terrine' and not 'fudge'. After looking up what Terrine is, I decided that was a horrible name. I am calling it fudge, even though it certainly is nowhere as sweet as fudge.

I contemplated whether or not to even adapt it to vegan. I had enough ingredients to make some reasonable substitutions, and vegan would be a bit tough. But I figured, hell, if I am already having to make substitutions, I might as well just go all vegan!

That was a good call, because I need the eggs for thanksgiving dinner tomorrow :)

So, here is my best recollection of what I did. As usual with me, I tinkered a lot with this, so the proportions, especially of the oil, margarine, and sugar, are most likely not quite right. I adjusted everything as needed for texture and to taste. I aimed to keep the recipe from being overly sweet, like fudge tends to be, and I think it turned out quite well balanced!

-4 oz Baker's unsweetened chocolate
-2 oz vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
-6 tbsp all natural smooth peanut butter. Look for the unsweetened, unsalted, smooth, roasted type. It is surprisingly common and easy to find in all stores these days! A few brands make them, I used Trader Joe's crunchy cause that was all I had! The easiest way to find the right peanut butter? Read the ingredients. All that should be in it is dry roasted peanuts. Done.
-5 tsp egg replacer + 2 tbsp vegan margarine
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 cup coconut milk
-3 tbsp or more of coconut oil, melted
-2 tbsp sugar
-2 tsp lemon juice


-3 tbsp cocoa powder
-2 tbsp vegan margarine
- ~2 tbsp homemade 'corn syrup' recipe to follow

Line an 11x7 inch pan with plastic wrap.

In a stainless steel bowl (or double boiler), combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and 2 oz of margarine.  Place the bowl on top of a pot of simmering water, taking care to not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until everything melts. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth.

Warm 2 tbsp of vegan margarine in the microwave until it is melted and warm (not hot!) to the touch. Whip together with the egg replacer and sugar. Whisk slowly into the chocolate mixture in three equal additions.

In a separate bowl, combine the coconut milk, sugar, and lemon juice. With blender on high (you can also do this with a food processor, or I used a handheld dressing blender) begin whipping the milk. Slowly drizzle the coconut oil into the bowl as you mix. We want this to emulsify and combine. Continue to whip until milk becomes thick and creamy, adding more melted coconut oil as needed.

Fold your coconut cream into the chocolate mixture. Pour mixture into plastic lined pan, and refrigerate for 4 hours. (or, you can cheat like me and freeze it for one hour!)

As fudge is cooling, let's make the glaze.

High-fructose free 'corn syrup' substitute

-1/2 cup water
-1 cup sugar

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and turn on heat to low. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. It should begin to melt and simmer quite quickly. Keep and eye on it, and heat it until it sticks to the back of a spoon. I like to get some on the spoon, then blow on the spoon until it is cool and touch the syrup to see if it is tacky. It should be the consistency of a really chewy, sticky candy when cooled. You can cook it less if you want a thread (which is what syrups are usually cooked to), but for this recipe, I liked the soft ball stage. You can use a candy thermometer for this if you are new to candy making-- I just winged it! You will have extra, and since it is syrup, it will keep for a long time if properly stored. Once cooled, I stored mine in a mason jar in the cabinet!


-3 tbsp cocoa powder
-2 tbsp vegan margarine
- ~2 tbsp 'corn syrup' substitute more as needed!

Warm the vegan margarine and corn syrup. Combine together with cocoa powder. Add more 'corn syrup' as needed to get the consistency pourable, but not so thin it will all run off the fudge. You want it thick enough to stick to the fudge, but thin enough to pour on and spread all over.

Once the fudge is in the fridge is solid, remove from pan and flip over on a piece of parchment paper and remove the plastic. Transfer back into pan, paper side down so it keeps the pan lined, and drizzle/ spread the glaze over the top. Return to fridge for about any hour. Keep fudge in fridge, as it is super melty and will melt all over if left out!

I had all the ingredients here on hand, as should all aspiring vegan bakers! This fudge will surely impress all your dark chocolate loving, non-vegan friends and family!