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Native Foods Cooking Demo

23 Oct

On Sunday morning, I woke up early to catch the bus to Westwood for my second Native Foods cooking demo. I attended one soon after my arrival in LA at the Culver City location, which you can read about here.

Anyway, I arrived about 15 minutes early and chose my antisocial seat hidden behind a poll, ’cause that’s what I do. Here’s what the cooking set-up looked like:

While we waited, I had two sample cups of their awesome chai:

And then the Hulk — I mean Chef Kendall — showed up:

Blammo. She was a hoot. Her manner was very engaging, which made the demo very exciting. We got to work trying our first samples: Mummy Meatloaf with Bloody Mary Sauce.

The meatloaf was seitan-based, and it tasted good, but it wasn’t terribly exciting. The sauce, however, was insanely good and really easy. I can see myself attempting a lentil/tempeh loaf and lathering it on, or using it as a tofu marinade, or making a twist on patatas bravas with it. So good!

Next we tried the Dragon’s Blood Punch:

Also tasty, though I’m not the world’s biggest fan of punch. It had cranberry, mixed fruit juice, and ginger ale.

And then we did dessert number 1 — Goblin “Sweet” Bread Ginger Pudding:

This was really tasty. I especially loved the addition of crystallized ginger. I did have to pick out/eat around the currants (raisins’ slightly less offensive but still reprehensible cousin), but I would definitely make this at home with leftover homemade sourdough and maybe chocolate chips instead of the ginger.

And dessert number 2 — Ghastly Gourd Parfaits:

This was tasty, too, but very hard to eat with a fork! It was a tofu-based pumpkin pudding with a spiced cookie crumble.

And then I won $10:

That’s me next to the Hulk

Technically, the people behind me won the $10 gift card. However, they left early — thank goodness, as they were some of the most annoying people I can remember encountering in a while — so I totally cannibalized their winnings. Bwah ha ha. No shame.

I had a good time at this demo, and while I thought Chef Kendall was an amazing host, I would have preferred a better balance of savory to sweet food. I felt pretty sugar-loaded by the time I left.

Since it was Sunday, my bus was only running every hour, so I spent about 55 minutes walking around Westwood. It was beautiful outside — 70s and overcast — so I did a little window shopping, logged two meandering miles, and stumbled across this lovely courtyard:

It was a great start to a Sunday.


The Great Fundraising Act

25 Jul

Hey friends,

Only a few hours remain for you to get in on the incredibly generous and life-affirming event that is Meals and Moves’ fundraising auction for Susan of The Great Balancing Act, who was recently diagnosed with Hodgin’s Lymphoma. There are some amazing items available, so go place a bid for your favorites!

More tea?

12 Sep

(I apologize in advance if you see this post on my craft blog, too, but I wanted to share it both places.)

Wow. My tea party birthday was such a huge, amazing pile of fun that I’m not even sure where to start. I guess I’ll go chronologically. Beware: this is a long, photo-heavy post. And there’s a lot of sugar and caffeine to go around, too.

I started drinking tea a lot more often in the past few months. I was interested in learning to dry my own mint leaves and such to make tisanes, and my research led me to look for a particular book on tea that my local library didn’t have. Instead, they had Victoria magazine’s The Essential Tea Companion, which is full of information on steeping tea, using fancy dishes, and throwing tea parties. My brain went, “click.” This was May or June, I believe, and I quickly started searching my mind for a good reason to throw a tea party. I decided my birthday was a good choice. It was far enough away to plan, and I knew people would indulge me in honor of my ability not to die before I could ring in another year.

I spent a couple of months hitting up estate sales and thrift stores here and there in search of a hodgepodge of tea cups, cloth napkins, and other accoutrements. I had some early successes, but my search lagged towards the end. Luckily, the day before I had a great score at CMCA Thrift Shop (I would link you, but their website may be compromise at the moment — the store is on Utica, right by Hillcrest). I ended up with 18 beautiful tea cups all within the basic color palette I had chosen (pink, blue, purple, and gold).

Taking a much-needed, pre-party bath.

That’s enough background. On with the party!

My taller half and my mother helped me set up an hour before guests were due to arrive. We held the party at Chandler Park‘s gorgeous new community center. The room was perfect!

My major task the day before and the morning of was cooking and assembling food. Here’s the result:

The rundown (from left to right): paper plates (more on those below); plastic cutlery, a stack of vintage cloth napkins; tea sandwiches: white bean (with chives, basil, garlic and onion) on top, herbed cream cheese (with chives, garlic, onion, paprika, and chili powder) below, and peanut butter and banana on gluten-free bread on the silver platter; two veggie trays, one with hummus in the middle and the other with ranch dip; berries; two boxes of cookies brought by my cousin; sugar cookies; pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes; tea cups; lemonade; assorted tea bags; honey; creamer; and the electric kettle (well, and the boom box).

Here’s a close-up of the dessert/tea area:

I want to take a moment here to talk about the lemonade — yes, the brown stuff in the pitcher is lemonade. Why is it brown?, you may wonder. Did you serve your guests rotten juice? Yes, we did! No, wait, no, we didn’t. Here’s how you take freshly squeezed lemonade (or any other lightly colored, homemade juice) and make it look like tea: when creating the sugar syrup, use raw turbinado sugar instead of the processed white stuff. Isn’t that ingenious? No matter what everyone was sipping at the party, we all looked like we were enjoying tea. I dislike lemonade, but I heard tons of “yum!”s from the crowd, so I will let you know that the recipe came from The Joy of Cooking. The raw sugar was entirely our idea, however. The lemonade was lovingly squeezed by my gorgeous taller half.

Both of the desserts I baked were entirely vegan. The sugar cookie recipe is from the Joy of Vegan Baking, and the cupcakes are my favorite still from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Beside the desserts, I placed the tea cups so guests could choose their own. Then they could either enjoy the brown lemonade or one of the varieties of tea:

The electric kettle on the far right, barely visible, supplied the hot water. I also placed (coconut milk) creamer and honey for flavoring, but I apparently forgot to photo them. Here are the adorable containers:

In front of all the food, I placed little signs denoting what was available. I also placed an informational piece on how to make tea. Here is that and one of my favorite food labels:

My love set out three eight-top tables, at which we seated five each, and cushy chairs, all of which were included in our incredible reasonable facility rental. I didn’t have appropriately sized tablecloths, but we made do. My mother did three gorgeous, springy flower arrangements. I know it’s nearly fall, but tea party just doesn’t scream deep oranges and reds to me.

When guests arrived, I asked everyone to wear a name tag since I had a variety of people there who didn’t know each other: my family, my love’s sister, high-school friends, and Tulsa Craft Mafia gals.¬†After about 30 minutes of mingling, I unleashed everyone on the food. We ate and sipped our tea for about an hour.

This is Kayla, my friend since 9th grade. She is beautiful. She has a 17-month-old daughter who will one day be named the most drop-dead gorgeous creature that has ever lived on this planet. Kayla also knows how to pretty up some tea. Also, don’t let that “Miss” on her name tag fool you. She’s a married lady, so hands off.

This is my love with his sister. Check out her amazing hat. Can you believe my dark Greek man shares so much DNA with this fair redhead? Totally. Just look at their matching smiles and gorgeous faces.

Another reason I asked everyone to wear name tags is because I held a best-dressed contest. Everyone voted for their favorite outfitted party attendee or attendees, and I added up the votes. The winners were:

Holly, the crafty hottie behind Hollyrocks, in second place, and my little cousin Diana in first place. How amazing do they both look? For their efforts, Diana went home with a rubber ducky tea infuser, and Holly got a gift certificate to Tulsa’s Dragonmoon Tea Company (which I’ll have to review someday).

Let’s check out Diana’s full ensemble once more:

No wonder she won with 50% of the votes.

After I announced those winners, we briefly did some birthday things. My taller half kicked it off with a game called, Do You Know Brigid? Ten trivia questions separated the knows from the know nots. My mother won. I meant to exclude her, but my love didn’t want to. She took home a prize she brought to give out to a winner. Speaking of Mom, here I am with her and her mother, too:

We don’t look alike or anything. Afterward, everyone sang to me and I opened a few gifts, which included:

An amazing Alice in Wonderland teapot from my friend Nichole and these way-too-awesome cupcake baking molds from my cousin Charity. Yes, I put them to good use this morning and enjoyed a leftover cupcake and Earl Grey Lavender tea in one of my tea cups for breakfast. My love’s sister also gave me a subscription to the awesome Ready Made magazine. My dad’s girlfriend gave me a gift basket of homemade apple butter, peach melba jam, and a gluten-free, vegan pancake mix. So thoughtful. Holly gifted me one of her terrariums for my desk at work, which I’ve been dying to have. Uber-crafty Tara gave me Loop-d-Loop Crochet. Speaking of my Mafia gals, check us out:

Yes, it is hard work being this hot AND crafty.

And after two hours of eating, sipping, chatting, and playing, it was all over. Mom and my love helped me clean and pack up. We ended up with some leftovers, which is fine by me. We ran out of plastic containers after I threw a bunch away, so Mom took the rest of the baby carrots and broccoli home in a vase:

Clever and weird.

It runs in the family.

I want to thank all of my 14 guests, including my two super-duper helpers, for making this party a reality. I couldn’t have had more fun dressing up and just hanging out with some of my favorite people ever.

Now, for a little honesty: I had planned to include a few things that I had to scrap after running out of time and money. First, I intended to use real plates instead of Chinet. However, not all of the tea cups came with saucers, and eventually I had to give up on finding enough that matched my color scheme and vision. I hate to be wasteful, but it saved my sanity. At least I bought plates made from recycled materials. I also intended to make flavored honeys and put out sugar cubes. These things didn’t happen, and it was OK. I ended up with a nearly vegan tea party that fit my fancy fantasies without breaking the bank.

Speaking of nearly vegan, of the things I made, only the cream cheese sandwiches were not dairy-free. The cookies my cousin brought and the ranch dressing that came with the veggie trays weren’t either, but I ate vegan during the party (with the exception of the honey, but I don’t exclude that from my diet). I’m pretty proud!

And though this concludes the food portion of my food blog, I will now parade a few more vanity shots:

Me with Kayla and Nichole, two of my oldest friends and favorite gals. (I was wearing really tall shoes. In real life, I’m only about 1.5″ taller than both of them.)

Cousins! That’s us in age and height order. Notice that Charity is not wearing heels and towers over us anyway.

Me with my stepsister Kaity, my little sister Sarah (who is an 11-year-old giant), and Dad’s girlfriend Jo.

And me and my love, AKA the best tea party co-host in the world.

I wish you a Sunday filled with peace, love, and half the amount of sugar and caffeine on which I ran yesterday.