Country Fried!

Hey ya'll! I finally got around to re-testing one of my favorite cookbook recipes last night. And this time, I took some much-needed advice from my testers (thanks testers!). Here's my new and improved Country Fried Tempeh Steak with Soymilk Gravy:

It's not health food. That's for certain. It's breaded, fried, and smothered in definitely-not-fat-free gravy. But it's good. And sometimes that's what matters. Fried foods are great in moderation (or so I choose to believe).

On the side, I tried Susan V's Wasabi-Roasted Asparagus from Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen:

It was tasty, but next time I'm adding WAY more wasabi. Susan's recipe calls for as little or as much as you want, based on your personal taste for spiciness. Since I love the sinus burn from wasabi, I needed much more. I used 3/4 teaspoon of wasabi powder and I could barely taste it. Even still, the sesame oil gave the roasted asparagus a tasty flavor.

I also made a batch of Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread from Bean Vegan:

Stephanie (Poopie Bitch) gave me a jar of sourdough starter that she made from her batch (which she got from Bazu in the mail). This was my first time working with the starter (which I've named Lestat, like the vampire ... cause it will live forever so long asI feed it), and I was really impressed with the strong sourdough flavor. I slathered a slice with Earth Balance and ate it with this meal.

On a final sweet note, I made these Neopolitan Bars from the April issue of VegNews:

They're one of Hannah Kaminsky's (of My Sweet Vegan fame) recipes, and man were they delicious! The cake part was a bit like a blondie spiked with my hand-picked organic strawberries. These are topped with a rich chocolate ganache. My only complaint — the ganache recipe calls for way too much liquid. I had to add extra chocolate chips to make it creamy, and though the picture in the magazine shows the ganache all firmed up, mine never set. Still tasted delicious though!

It's All About Balance

I try to squeeze in most of my food groups with every meal (except for fruit, which I drink in my morning juice). Sometimes, the balance doesn't always work so well, but last night's dinner was pretty food pyramid-friendly. My protein and green veggies combined for this Swiss Chard & Baked Tofu:

This is my favorite way to prepare chard. I first tried the recipe (which I found here) last spring when I was doing a week-long local eating project. I had bought Swiss chard for the first time at the farmers market and didn't know what to do with it. I stumbled on the baked tofu and chard idea while googling. This batch of chard also came from the farmers market.

Warning: The tofu in this dish is not heavily seasoned, and that's kinda how I like it. But I also like raw, unseasoned tofu, so you might want to add some soy sauce to the marinade if that's your thing. I'd like it that way too. I'm not very picky.

On the side, I probably downed a couple servings of carbs with this Cheesy Stovetop Rotini from The Uncheese Cookbook:

It also had red bell pepper and walnuts, so that's more veggies and protein (plus awesome omega-3's). The sauce was very unlike my own recipe for cashew cheeze sauce, which is much heavier on the nooch. I liked the Uncheese version, but it was definitely different. It didn't contain any butter or oil, and the taste of tahini outweighed the nutritional yeast flavor. Good for mixing things up a bit.

Organic Strawberry Fields Forever

Every year around this time, I start dreaming up all sorts of uses for fresh, juicy strawberries as I anticipate my first batch of hand-picked, organic berries from Windermere Farms. I've been salivating over thoughts of shortcake for weeks now. Thankfully, all my dreaming paid off on Saturday when I dove into this gorgeous Strawberry Shortcake:

You can find the recipe here. The "shortcakes" are actually sweet vegan biscuits topped with sugared strawberries and creamy Soyatoo. Yum, yum!

Stephanie (Poopie Bitch), her husband, and I hand-picked a combined eight pounds of organic berries (I got five pounds, she got three) at Windermere Farms on Saturday morning. Windermere is a small locally-owned farm in Raleigh, a suburb of Memphis. Farmers Frieda and Ken Lansing grow strawberries (and later lima beans and squash) every year, and they're certified organic!

Last night, I used more berries to make this Strawberry Pop from Vegan Soul Kitchen:

I won't divulge Bryant Terry's recipe since it's printed in his cookbook, but it's basically a carbonated, healthy version of strawberry soda! A tall glass of this was super-refreshing in our 80 degree temps!

Vegan Food Swap #2

Last month, a few of my friends and I held our first Vegan Food Swap, in which we all made a dish and split it up four ways so we'd each have plenty of leftovers for the coming weekend. We held the second installment of Vegan Food Swap last Thursday at my house with only three of the original participants.

Stephanie (of Poopie Bitch) made these awesome BBQ Seitan Sandwiches with Coleslaw and Homemade Buns:

Since it was a swap and not a potluck, we weren't eating right away. Steph packaged two buns for each participant, and we stored seitan and coleslaw in separate containers. Steph's buns were so freakin' amazing! I'd never tried fresh baked buns before, but these may convince me to start making my own.

Nic brought Vegan Tortiere:

This was stuffed with all sorts of deliciousness - Gimme Lean sausage, black olives, celery, peppers, onions, potatoes (I think). And the crust is really biscuity and light. I still have a few servings of this left and I can't wait to dig in.

I made my Tofu Manicotti with Raid the Garden Marinara:

It's a recipe I'm considering adding to my cookbook, though it's not really a Southern dish so maybe I shouldn't. But it's basically manicotti stuffed with ricotta-like herbed tofu. The sauce is made with whole tomatoes and it's super chunky and vegetable-y (yes, I invented that word). I served this with a salad of fresh farmer's market lettuce!

Expat Life, Not for Everyone ...

My attitude toward events and life in Thailand can run opposed to those who predict doom and gloom or wear rose colored glasses.  Perhaps I have been desensitized and become excessively blasé over the years.  That said, one does need to take a good long look at things, before choosing to become an Expat.  Of course I can only speak to my personal experience in Thailand.  For some the risks are mitigated by the fact that an organization, corporation, government or God is paying the bills.  Being hired from overseas, on a good expat package leaves you with little financial risk.  If you are trying to make it entirely on your own, you are in for a very steep learning curve, however.  You had best be very, very good at something, that there is a market for, and have massive people skills.  You will need contacts and help from the right people.  Pretty much everything I have done in Thailand was handed to me by people who liked me or needed me.  I certainly didn’t go around knocking on doors and asking for things.  One skilled friend of mine did put out feelers early on, but it took a year or two, before people locally, started to take him seriously and offer him assignments.  His skill and patience won out in the end but that is hardly the norm.

Young, single, unencumbered, polite and highly skilled or perhaps old and retired with adequate money, are workable scenarios.  If you marry into the wrong Thai social class you had best be retired with money as it will make things more difficult with the people you will need to socialize and associate with in the working world.   Children, or perhaps a western wife, will add a whole new set of challenges, that I thankfully have not had any experience with.  Education, healthcare and a myriad of western expectations will likely not be filled in exactly the way one might wish for.  As a youthful adventurer, teaching can help to pay some bills and open doors to learning about real people in your country of choice.  Even as a retiree, a little teaching can provide great social rewards and recognition among the locals.  Of course you won’t be held in as high esteem, by many of your expat compatriots. 

Like me, some become lifelong expats and manage to somehow survive and sometimes even thrive.  For others it is just an interlude that enriches their lives with vivid memories and vital life experiences.  Now we get to the poor souls who should never leave their native lands.  The bigoted and intolerant are better off being unhappy at home and not inflicting themselves on another nation of people.  Those who are week willed, lacking in self-discipline, or possess an addictive personality could easily find themselves on a very slippery slope toward a nightmare scenario.  Without a social safety net and no one looking out for ones best interests, many a life has been waisted in the notorious bars and nightlife of Bangkok and Pattaya.  Families have been shattered and fortunes lost as people have fled the safe predictability of life at home and sought out adventure or love in a far off land.

There are of course risks in life regardless of where one resides.  Those risks are not the same for everyone, however.  While some fear for their safety, security or comfort, others have no greater fear, than living a normal and predictable life within the confines of what is expected.  There is no right or wrong about it.  With no sure things, sometimes you just have to go for it.  If it doesn’t workout, have faith in your own ability to persevere.  Much easier done without debts or responsibilities, of course.

Bandito Burrito

Remember that song "Banditos" by the Refreshments from like 1990-something? It was all: "So just how far down do you wanna go/We could talk it out over a cup of joe/And you could look deep into my eyes/Like I was a supermodel/Uh-huh."

Anyway, this meal — the Bandito Burrito from Vegan Bites — got that song stuck in my head for days:

I don't usually follow recipes for burritos. I just shove some seasoned beans and rice and veggies in a tortilla and stuff it in my face. But I've been wanting to make more recipes from Vegan Bites, a book designed for vegan singles. All the recipes only make a couple servings. This one made for two burritos, filled with pintos, red bell pepper, corn, jalepeno, and onion. I topped my filling with melted Nacho Teese. Yum!

Check out that sexy kale on the side:

I picked up a huge batch from one of my favorite farming couples — Keith and Jill Forrester of Whitton Flowers & Produce — at the Memphis Farmers Market. I sauteed it with a little oil, garlic, and plenty of sriracha. Nothing beats fresh greens from the farmer's market.

Sausage 'n' Biscuits

Since I'm on a bit of an Uncheese Cookbook kick, I couldn't resist making a batch of the Chedda Biscuits for breakfast this week:

These are unlike any biscuits I've ever made. For one thing, they're drop biscuits so they don't have the smooth look of my homemade rolled-out biscuits. That explains the funky shape.

I also load my homemade biscuits down with non-hydrogenated shortening and soy margarine because I believe those things are necessary to create a fluffy, flaky biscuit. But Joanne Stepaniak's uncheese recipes tend to be on the low-fat side, so this recipe didn't call for any fat.

The result? A much drier biscuit than I would have liked. However, these little guys — flavored with nooch and dill — had a savory kick that would be perfect for dipping in a creamy bowl of soup.

I served my mornin' biscuits with Tempeh Breakfast Sausage from Judy Brown's Guide to Natural Foods Cooking, an old vegan hippie cookbook I found at a thift store:

These were tasty! They're made with crumbled tempeh and flavored with miso, sage, garlic, and cayenne. The patties don't hold together very well, but they were perfect stuffed in between heavily Earth Balanced biscuits (hey, I had to add some fat in there!).

Hey testers! My Mint Julep brownie recipe is up on the tester blog....just so ya know.

MapJack - Phuket Street View - Almost like being here!

Update 2012 - Google Maps now has Phuket Street View!

I first heard of MapJack a couple of years ago, which was about when it started. It's very similar to Google Street View (available as part of Google Maps), which was launched about the same time. The idea with both - to map towns and cities with street view images. The MapJack images are taken by camera operators on foot or in vehicles. Every few meters, a new 360 degree image. Every street, every building.... put it all together and you can "walk" around your own town, or places you have been or want to visit. It's still in its infancy of course, covering some US cities (MapJack started with San Francisco) and (for reasons I am not clear about) quite a lot of places in Thailand too. Chiang Mai was added first and now... Phuket!

MapJack Phuket - Start Here.

Google Maps has a lot more coverage - loads of cities in the US and Europe, but MapJack, which claims to be run on a shoestring budget, is doing Thailand. Hurrah! I think the Phuket images are about a year old... the problem with a project like this is keeping images updated, especially in a place like Phuket where there's building a plenty, new roads etc... Things look very different to 10 years ago when I arrived. Google Earth is another great tool, but some of the images of Phuket are over 5 years old now, though are updated now and then

#update 2011 - October... Google Street view car has been spotted in Phuket!

Not sure if it's the same for everyone, but I get defaulted to a start image at Kalim beach, just north of Patong. Here's the screenshot:

MapJack screenshot, Kalim Beach near Patong, Phuket

MapJack is easy to use, you can click on the blue dots to move to the next picture, you can click and drag the picture to spin round 360 degrees, or use the arrow keys to move forward/back/turn. Below the photo is a Google Maps overlay. Best to zoom in a bit to see which areas have MapJack coverage - you can click on the map to move "Jack" to that location. There are a few major Phuket roads missing in the coverage so far, but you can pretty much cruise the whole island and waste entire days at work. Here's a screenshot showing a view from Phromthep Cape:

MapJack view of Cape Phromthep, Phuket

Each image actually has it's own url (web address) - in the top left of the image you see a little arrow pointing to a circle - click that and you will get a message saying "Link to this location:" followed by the url - for the image above you can click on - and you can then rotate the image to see exactly the same as above.

Here's a screenshot in Phuket Town showing the On On Hotel:

MapJack screenshot in Old Phuket Town

Now, so far.. aside from the fact that some images in the seedier areas of Pattaya were removed, there has been no call for face blurring and licence plate blurring like in Google Street View. I have yet to find myself or anyone I know on MapJack, but I guess I need to waste more hours looking at the images! You might find yourself on there! What you also get in these images is a snapshot of daily life and if you click on different areas in Phuket - a good appreciation that Phuket has a lot of variety, it's not all beaches and tourists!

This is Phuket (Soi Bangla, Patong):

Soi Bangla, Patong, Phuket on MapJack

So is this (a small local market north of Phuket Town):

Local Market in Phuket as seen on MapJack

Darn, I could do this all day! You can explore all over Phuket with MapJack - main beaches, quiet side streets in Phuket Town, main roads, minor roads - sure, not every road, but anyway, I have been enjoying playing with this all week - thanks to Alasdair at Phuket Observer for the heads up! MapJack is a bit of fun for me, but a great tool for getting a feel for Phuket and finding places you might want to visit.

Eggless Frittata

I've been loving faux eggy dishes lately — omelettes, tofu "egg" salad, quiche, and frittata. When I stumbled onto the Frittata recipe in The Uncheese Cookbook, I knew I had to give it a try. Here's the finished product, a tofu-based pie baked with potatoes, green bell peppers, onions, and pureed tomatoes:

It set quite well while baking, but I couldn't wait the suggested 10 minutes afterward to dig in. Due to my impatience, it didn't plate well, but it tasted amazing in between bites of buttered sprouted grain toast:

At opening day of the farmer's market (yea!!!), I picked up a mystery green labeled Baby Jean:

The seller told me Baby Jean were the young shoots of fresh greens (she didn't say what kind of greens and I didn't think to ask). When she informed me that it tasted a lot like broccoli rabe, I knew I had to give it a try.

I found simple instructions for sauteeing broccoli rabe on the Internet....simply saute with a little oil and minced garlic and toss with salt:

The result — Delicious! I wish I'd bought more than one small package. It tasted like broccoli and collard greens got together and had a baby. Maybe that's why they call it Baby Jean.

Age, Imports, Trails & Dogs...

Inevitably, my frequent morning walks to the dam, fill me with a quiet composure and contentment that lingers throughout the day.  To be surpassed only by the joyous exaltation of my four legged companions who explode in dance and song at the mere suggestion of my intentions.  Even the blistering heat of the morning sun, on these recently clear days, could not dampen their spirits, though I confess it slows my pace a bit.  The brown leafless days of the past are but a memory as the forest trees sprout new plumage.  One sometimes forgets that many forrest trees produce, not only leaves of green, but flowers as well.  Some strike you with their brilliance of color while others are shy and subdued in their presentation and would easily evade a cursory glance.  This year the fruit bearing trees put forth the promise of a bountiful harvest.  While not all is lush and green, and will not be for some time to come, there is once again beauty to behold upon the trail.  I even glimpsed a brilliant, deep blue stranger to these eyes, as it flew from tree to tree, proudly displaying the full extent of its colorful form.

While often clearing the cobwebs from my mind, on occasion I find myself in deep contemplation as I proceed down the trail.  Today I found that I was lamenting the role that age plays in this paradise that I live in.  It is not just that I find the resident farangs, to be for the most part, so very old.  Village life itself is devoid of whole generations for most of the year.  Just as in small hamlets and villages around the world, the young lust for a city life, departing at the first opportunity.  Their leaving behind the very young to be cared for by the very old, I fear damages the very fiber of the community.  Children are often cared for by those who are least well equipped to do so.  Sometimes illiterate and clinging to superstitions and practices from a bygone era, their best efforts are often not enough to prepare their grandchildren for the modern world.

I was not so very different, in that I shunned this village life until after I passed the half century mark.  Even so, I am young in comparison to many a farang, who usually had to wait for the maturing of children, jettisoning of the ex, retirement and the late-life discovery of Thai girls.  I lament that village life bears no resemblance to the vibrancy of the city and the limitless representation of age groups and lifestyles.  The city itself, however, I do not miss.   

While I have come across some individuals of interest, many including the Thais I’ve met, are just passing through.  They often live elsewhere and are what I refer to as temporary imports.  Friends from overseas or brought up from Bangkok, or thereabouts, with a mutual payoff in mind.  One escapes the turmoil of the city, if only briefly, while the other enjoys a level of discussion and banter not to be found locally.  We are finding it difficult to extricate some of our city friends from their entrenched routines but remain hopeful that they will relent during the cool season.  It is possible to benefit from others who have the same idea, at times.  One Thai neighbor who visits often with his local girlfriend has brought in friends to see his new house.  I stumbled into their midst one day and enjoyed the trip down memory lane as they quizzed my knowledge of their world.  They being a good ten years younger than I, had nonetheless been present in many of the same environs.  They brought back memories of a time a place almost forgotten and impossible to share with others who inhabit the village.

By way of explanation, my Thai village neighbor from Bangkok, is an outgoing and gregarious sort.  His close friends were an interesting and diverse group.  One studious fellow, with his horn-rimmed glasses, had his nose buried in the newspaper and only spoke in his rich baritone to deflect the chiding of his more verbose companions.  The other less talkative friend was cut from the mold of the strong silent type.  He had ridden up from the central plains on a new BMW 1200 and had a quiet self-confidence that speaks volumes, without speaking at all.  The obvious leader of this boisterous pack sat me down and proceeded to interrogate me in the most disarming manner.  Done clumsily this kind of thing leaves me looking for the exit but done well, as on that day, is the equivalent of a verbal dance.

So there are ways to fill the voids in age and intellect that permeate village life.  Simply import friends from Bangkok or overseas, and to fill the time between visits, there is always Skype and email.  Not insignificantly a blog can play its part as well.  In a way this all suits me and my nature.  Though some will assume a loner to be a social misfit, we are often far from socially inept.  To the extent that joining groups is seen as a limiting thing.  Confining one to a hunting range of restricted proportions.  The lone wolf is a more flexible creature and often ranges far and wide unlike those who join the pack and must abide by its rules and remain within its territory.  Of course, when all else falls short of the mark, there is no substitute for a loyal and trustworthy, canine companion and a long walk to the dam.

The Chickpea's Southern Sista

I needed to juice up my cookbook's appetizer section (which is currently lacking in content), and I'd been wondering how black-eyed peas would taste in hummus. The answer? Oh my god, awesome! As evidenced by this Black Eyed Pea Garlic Hummus:

It may not look super hot in my shabby Tupperware, but I spooned it in and drizzled it with olive oil and paprika before remembering that I needed to shoot it first. Oh well. I promise it tasted amazing on toasted whole wheat pita triangles.

The recipe is pretty basic. I was going to get all fancy and add stuff like sundried tomatoes or roasted red peppers, but I wanted to sample it plain before adding to it. I was so pleased with the result of the plain garlicky black-eyed pea hummus that I decided to leave it alone. Sometimes simple is better. And to be honest, I liked it better than any chickpea hummus I've ever made.

I served the hummus pita toasts with a large side salad of mixed greens, carrots, cucumbers, tomato, snow pea pods, roasted sunflower seeds, soy nuts, and vegan ranch dressing:

Nachos = Best Thing Ever

Oh nachos, how do I love thee? Lemme count the ways. Or lemme just show you this picture of today's lunch — Black Bean Teesy Nachos:

Probably the best meal I've had all year so far. Seriously. I love nachos more than anyone could ever understand.

These are made with a base of crunchy Guiltless Gourmet Yellow Corn Chips (baked, not fried) and topped with black beans, Nacho Teese sauce, homemade guacamole, Roma tomato, black olives, and a few Trappy's jalepeno peppers.

The Nacho Teese (which my dad ordered for me last month from Vegan Essentials) is absolutely amazing. It's softer than the regular Teese, but it still comes in a tube. Nuke it in the microwave for 30 seconds and it turns into a spicy sauce for all your nacho needs.

As for the guac, I mashed half an avocado and stirred in a clove of garlic, a tablespoon or so of red onion, diced tomato, the juice of one lime, and plenty of salt and pepper. I can't wait to eat more of these for lunch again tomorrow!!!!

Sippin' On Some Sorghum Syrup

Ya'll know Three Six Mafia? They're this awesome Memphis crunk rap group that sings "Sippin' On Some Syrup" (but it's pronounced sis-urp). Anyway, they inspired this post's title, which involves a magical breakfast syrup made from sorghum and baking soda.

I made the sorghum syrup for my Sorghum Molasses French Toast:

It's another cookbook recipe. The French toast is a simple vegan version with a hint of cinnamon sweetness. For this batch, I used my go-to bread — Ezekieal 4:9 sprouted grain bread. The real beauty, however, lies in that foamy syrup drizzled over the toast.

When you heat sorghum on low heat with a pinch of baking soda, it gets all foamy and fluffy and delicious. Sorghum isn't available in all parts of the country, but molasses makes a great substitute.

What's the difference? Sorghum is made from a certain type of grass and it's a tad bit lighter in color and milder in flavor than it's darker cousin molasses. Molasses is a byproduct of sugarcane or sugar beet production. Both are high in nutrients (like calcium, potassium, and iron). Southerners often mistakenly refer to both products as "sorghum molasses," but they're a tad bit different. Even so, both make delicious syrup when heated with a little baking soda.

Songkran at Patong Beach - Wet Fun!

Ah, Songkran! You either love it or hate it... It can be a bit silly, some people go a bit crazy, it does help to be a little tipsy and (warning!) don't carry expensive electronic equipment in the streets unless it's waterproof. Anyone in a sour mood... stay at home. I know some expats will happily spend the 13th of April watching DVDs and getting rat-arsed. I think it helps to have kids. I also now believe it helps to have a pick up truck so you can load up with big barrels of water and enter hostile territory fully armed for battle! And last year we bought a Toyota Vigo... so this year we were ready for anything!

Family Fun - Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Shooting a Big (Water) Gun - Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

We drove over to Patong after midday - already quite a queue of traffic coming over the big hill from Phuket Town. I was driving the "first leg" with my wife, sister in law and 2 kids in the back. Patong is certainly THE place to go crazy for Songkran in Phuket. We checked Phuket Town last year, we have been to the turtle release ceremony before, but this year we just wanted to ride around, get wet, throw water and have fun. And YES, it's fun. Humbugs stay home!

Our daughter having fun - Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Little Boy Enjoys Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Girl Throwing Water - Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Of course, Songkran does have it's traditions too. We got fresh flowers for our Buddha Shelf, we cleaned the Buddha and King images.. and then waited for the morning rain to stop before heading to Patong. If you come for Songkran, it's best to get to Patong before midday. I can tell you, by about 2pm when we were leaving the traffic was backed up over the hill and down the other side, about a mile of traffic heading into Patong.

Battle of Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Girl Throwing Water - Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

I had my trusty Canon Powershot in a plastic bag sealed with tape. Worked pretty well too. When my turn came in the back and my wife was driving I invited water to be thrown in our general direction. There was a bit too much ice water for my little boy and after about an hour he retired to the safety of the cab, but had plenty of fun until then :)

Big Splash! Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Gotcha! Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Oh, and if anyone was thinking Phuket was empty, tourist numbers down, credit crunch, Bangkok protests.... I tell you it was packed in Patong yesterday! The pictures do not lie!

Crowds on Soi Bangla - Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Riding and Shooting - Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

I think it is important to remember why we are throwing water. This is not a water fight, this is not "I'll get you back, you bas***d".. the water is to symbolise a washing away of the old year. A good throw should be accompanied by a smile and a "Sawatdee Pee Mai" (Happy New Year). I did see some foreigners who were treating the day as a kind of war - shoot and hide, like a paintball game.. but most were getting the right idea. This is such a happy day. It gives me a "smile buzz".

Wet girls on a moped - Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Family at Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Songkran is a public holiday for several days, but here in Phuket the water throwing is limited to the 13th, so normal life can continue afterwards! However on the 13th of April, anything goes!

Throwing Water - Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Throwing Water - Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

Attack! Songkran 2009, Patong Beach Phuket

All photos by Jamie - either through the truck window or with my Canon Powershot in a plastic bag :) And I reckon we'll be riding around in our pick up truck next year too! Songkran is a fun day. But I am happy that it's only a day. Happy New Year everyone.

Related Posts

More Songkran Photos
Songkran 2011 in Chumphon
Patong Beach Hotels
More Phuket Festivals

Easter Eats

My family doesn't really celebrate Easter anymore, but I spent plenty of time with family and friends over the weekend anyway. Not really in an Easter celebration, just hanging out and eating a lot.

On Saturday afternoon, I drove to Jonesboro, Arkansas (my hometown) to have a picnic with my best friend Sheridan (we've been best friends since junior high, but now she lives in Little Rock ... she was also in Jonesboro visiting her family). Here's Sheridan enjoying a Vegan Bologna Sandwich with Tofutti American Cheese and Mustard:

We picnicked in the huge empty field beside my parent's house. It was a little chilly, but still really fun. Her boyfriend Drew took this picture of Sher and I:

We also had chips and bean dip ... and this awesome Vegan Strawberry Bread Pudding:

It was supposed to be strawberry/rhubarb bread pudding, according to this recipe (click the link to see for yourself). But we couldn't find fresh rhubarb. Didn't really matter though because this was perfect without it.

Even though I'm 28, my parents still give me Easter baskets. Though my dad ordered me a vegan chocolate Easter bunny last month, my parents gave me another Easter gift on Friday — cute new PJs, an iTunes gift card, a Kroger gift card, and this Oster 12-speed blender!!!

My dad read my last post about my stupid old blender and felt sorry for me. Now I can crush ice, make super smoothies, and puree soups! Thanks mama and daddy!

On Sunday, my parents and I stopped by my Granny's house because she'd made a few dishes that she wanted me to test for my cookbook, like this Beans and Greens Soup:

It was comforting and wholesome, and we decided the final recipe would be even better with added diced tomatoes. She also perfected her tasty Vegan Strawberry Pie, another cookbook recipe:

And Granny gave me an Easter basket filled with her home-canned goods — tomatoes, cucumber relish, pickles, green beans, and some garlic from her garden:

Happy Easter!!!