Friday, June 27, 2008

Tea and Beans....not your usual combination

After four solid days of sunshine, the weather this morning is a little more on the grey-side of Belgian 'summer'. I can't complain though, the warmth has been wonderful, and for the most part, without any humidity. I quite prefer this to the sweltering Toronto summer I left behind almost one year ago.

I don't have a recipe to share, but dinner last night was fantastic, not because of the rather mundane, not worth the share-recipe - but, more for its nostalgic qualities. After a not-too-painful trip to 'the mall' to check out the furniture at Habitat, we headed to Rob's, the shop that stands currently as the only purveyor of refried/black beans in all of Brussels. North American colleagues are always spreading rumours of secret stashes of black bean tins hidden inside the homes of the American families who have access to the U.S. military 'grocery store'. I admit to having paid 2 euros 50 for my tin of beans, but, hey! it had been a while....

After last night's dinner, which was a totally selfish treat, I have to write an ode to my darling not-always-vegan cowboy. I have to admire the effort that K goes to when considering my dietary restrictions. He is always checking and double checking my options when we are going on holiday or heading out for a day's adventure. He is more steadfast than me when it comes to pre-travel inspections of Happy Cow. There are also the compromises that I know his cheese loving heart makes on a regular basis - including last night. K is not a fan of Mexican-ish food, but he willing swallowed four bean, sweet potato and red pepper stuffed corn tortillas (I ate my beans with rice cakes). He also seemed quite content with the guacamole I threw together (sans hand blender, just a knife a la Melissa Smith). I think the really nice wine we picked up from Rob's helped....Thanks K! You are the best!

I was anxious this morning to take a photo of my Green Gate tea pot which I picked up from my favourite house shop around the corner from me. I adore it, and the little tea mugs that go with it. I coveted this little home accessory for weeks until K splurged and picked it up for us. I think that when you drink as much as we do indulgence isn't such a bad thing.

We signed the lease on the new apartment the other night! Can't wait to get in there.

Oh...and I have to share my two new favourite albums. I can't get enough of Jason Collett's Here's to Being Here (I love the splashes of Canada), and Okkervil River's the Stage Names is dynamite. Unfortunaley, O.R. played Brussels late last it is unlikely that they will be back around this year. But, Jason Collett is apparently a common feature on the Brussels' (amazing) music scene, so my fingers are crossed. I would ADORE seeing him....


Friday, June 20, 2008

Figs and Wedding Fun

I want to back up a bit.

About three weeks ago, to a dinner that followed a trip to our Wednesday market, where we procured an interesting veg I had never tried - Wild Asparagus. These thin little grass-like greens can be blanched to perfection in about 1 minute's time. We made a pretty yummy meal - one which was more clandestine than considered.

So here it is:

I started out with some green onions and a little bit of oil in a medium sized/medium warm pan and added some fresh figs, which I had cut into coins. I let this caramelize, adding some really yummy looking fresh mushrooms and spinach towards the end. I also added some lemon-thyme and some sage from our little terrace garden. I let these cook down a little while longer, while I went to town prepping the fu...when I say prepping I mean pressing and slicing almost in half (more like an incision, which left the thick steaks with a book-like appearance). I stuffed the fig/onion/spinach mixture inside the steaks and popped them in the oven to bake at about 375 for 40 minutes.

I reserved some of the fig sauce for the top, which I added with about 10 minutes left in the bake time. Yummmy.

The asparagus was thrown in a pot of boiling water for one minute and served as a side.

Wedding plans are tripping along wonderfully - we just sent out our Save The Date that pretentious? I don't think so....we work with so many folks that travel, and we don't want any one taking off before they get to join us for the vegan wedding of the century. Plus, with folks coming from Canada and the U.K. we want to be able to give people the chance to get in on early flights etc. It was so nice to get so many kind responses from our co-workers.....congrats and such.

We made the cards ourselves and were really happy with the end results. We think we might do the same for the actual invites....and replies...and thank yous. Saved paper, saved shipping and saved me from the consumer wedding dragon, which, I am trying to avoid at all costs.

One can leave a giant not-so-eco footprint with weddings...jesus. We have tried to be aware of that by securing vegan options where ever possible, and staying as eco as we can. There are some great websites out there, many of them from the U.K., such as Eco Wedding and PortoVert, which I quite prefer. We did manage to book Tan for our wedding supper and have booked a vegan caterer for the buffet dinner that we will have later that night at the chateau. The land that we are having the reception on is as eco as possible for Brussels, and I hope to find an earth friendly way to buy the dress of my dreams. Things are coming along with no hitches so far...which makes me worry that all the hiccups will happen on April 11th 2009.

Oh, one last bit of news. It looks like this vegan cowgirl will be whipping up her creations in the most fantastic kitchen she has ever laid eyes on. We got the apartment we wanted so badly....2 bed, backyard, right next to a huge park, still in biking distance to work and the whole kitchen is kitted out in is gorgeous. The best part: the hallway is fitted with its own bookshelves. How amazing is that, this little nerd can NOT wait to get in there.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Quality Education....

I adore my kids. I work with 22 kids at an International School, and they are just so amazingly wonderful - every day is a total commitment on their parts, and it shows. The stuff they create, the things they say, the issues they have gotten behind - it has all been wonderful. The retrospect of this last year began to creep in for me yesterday at some point....

Going from teaching University and College level English Literature and Communications to teaching Grade Five was a huge challenge for me, and doing it in another country, away from my family. I don't really know what I was thinking last June 28th when I accepted this job - giving up the chances to edit an online mag or teach aboriginal students on the most western tip of canada...I don't know what I was thinking - but I knew it was 100% the right decision for me.

My kids have taken me on the journey of my life, and I am so fortunate to be working at a school where they value the relationships teachers build with their kids - they are allowing me to loop up with them into grade six - so another year of these great folks is ahead of me.

To cap off our time together we are engaging in a week of...what is a good piece of education jargon that doesn't mean much more than FUN.....experiential education...there we go....Yesterday we spent the morning baking VEGAN goodies. The purpose was two-fold - get them in the kitchen to play with the soy milk their teacher has been going on about all year, and to whip up some goodies for Mr. Healey's 34th Birthday.

The end results were:
36 vegan cupcakes (chocolate and OH SO NOT SUGAR FREE)
2 layers of a vegan chocolate birthday cake
3 batches of icing - neon green, hot pink and shinny chocolate ("why is it shiny", "because it is pure sugar")

It was really cool - I put the recipes on the board, broke the kids into groups and let them go to it. They had a great time, and the cupcakes were edible (even after they covered them with sugary bits and bobs). Kevin LOVED his cake (read as: didn't burst into flames or start retching when consumed), and was treated to a play that my kids wrote for his birthday. He was showered with cards and balloons - how much do I love my littles.

I added to Kevin's surprise - though I was worried about taxing that aged heart of his - with a birthday surprise supper at ( of course ) La Pizzeria. It was great to see everyone and I do think I managed to outwit my most fantastic nerd.

It has come down to the last days of my first year here and I am so glad to have taken the plunge and followed me heart all the way to Brussels. I think I still have a couple years of school ma'rm in me before heading onto different pastures. And in the mean time, there is still a whole lot of Brussels to veganize!!!!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Doing a HandStand with a Muffin in My Hand

I just haven't felt like adding much of anything to cyberspace lately. Not for lack of love for the blogging world. It has just been a case of Pickleitis. I am sure I have mentioned the pickles. K before K was constantly informing me that the reason for my stomach problems was my addiction to pickles. Although he was incredibly wrong, his nagging does highlight my tendency towards obsession - food, clothes, music. I was on a blogging high during the first half of the year, full of contribution, constantly cruising the likes of supremely dedicated bloggers like: Lori, Jennifer et al. But, as I once saw pickles being supplanted by black bean burritos, I also saw my blogging being supplanted with long sessions of book reading. I wonder how much has been an internal revolt to return to my love of tangible pages between my fingers and the guaranteed solace I find between the covers of someone elses work - blogging I find to be about as private as communal living.

But, whilst I wait for Mr. K to emerge from a H.S. meeting, I find myself wanting to share two things. First - I wanted to share with everyone the memories I associate with the mug in the above picture. It was a present from a really great pair of children who I had in my life for too short a time - a part of the K before K package of reality. K and S were two years apart, wildly different and full of love for their Aunti Lyndsay. I missed them with such an ache last week, I decided to swap my ever-dutiful yellow mug with this great little piece of Guelph, Ontario and carry with me memories of making "whatever you want" cookies/dog biscuits with these two little love nuggets.

The second thing I had to share were the muffins I made last night - a la "whatever you want" type recipes. K was apparently really drunk yesterday when he left me with the Spinach man (who I have the biggest crush on) to head off on his own to find bananas. What was pulled out of our market bag an hour later was a big, black, bruised mess of some fruit that used to be a hand of organic bananas. I needed to get on it fast. So, in addition to the fig and apple crumble I made for my Master of Floor Sweeping, I also whipped up some yummy muffins - which went down really well at our team meeting today. I then had two 11 year olds test them out - they met with full kid approval.


Super simple, used the basic recipe from Veganomicon for Banana-Wheat Germ Muffins and ended up with some goodies that included the likes of: 3 bananas, almond milk, walnuts, whole wheat flour, baking powder, agave syrup, dark chocolate, sunflower seeds.