Potato Hash

April 24th, 2014 10:11 am by Kelly Garbato

2014-04-18 - MVT Potato Hash - 0001 [flickr]

Another one from Mayim’s Vegan Table. So this recipe is pretty tasty – you can’t go wrong with fried potatoes, am I right? – with beans (I used Navy in place of the recommended black beans, of which I am still sadly bereft), corn, chorizo (or Lightlife hotdogs, in my case), red peppers, onions, garlic, and some other goodies. (Pro tip: this hash tastes excellent with mushrooms!)

Sadly, my potatoes and hot dogs did not brown. I blame my expensive new(ish) frying pan, which is giant and makes some pretty kickass pasta sauce, but sucks at browning my favorite things. Tofu scramble, vegan meats, potatoes: they all just stick to the bottom of the pan. Usually I break out my 15-year-old cheapo frying pan for these occasions – the Teflon coating browns all the things – but it was way too small for today’s purposes.

Maybe it’s finally time to replace it with a shinier model?

tweets for 2014-04-23

April 24th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Monsters A to Z, A.J. Cosmo (2012)

April 23rd, 2014 3:04 pm by Kelly Garbato

A is for Adorkable

four out of five stars

Ever wonder where your house keys and cell phone disappeared to? A Jingrel might just be to blame! Or how about that elusive television remote control? If it’s always vanishing on you, your house might be home to a Me-Me.

Beautifully illustrated, with imaginative and entertaining entries, Monsters A to Z is a guide to the lesser-known monsters, from Aargmonths to Zoots and everyone in between. These monsters range from the gentle and pure of heart (Dock Divers, who abhor litter) to the troublesome and truly nefarious (the mac and cheese-stealing Brusselsnatches; these baddies will stone you with your own vegetables if you’re not careful). There are bipeds and quadrupeds; monsters with only two limbs, and monsters with up to eight; beaked creatures, flying creatures, and creatures with unicorn horns; fluffy little buggers who resemble Tribbles; masters of disguise; and even aquatic monsters who live under the sea.

More adorable than scary, most of the monsters found here are masters of everyday mischief and mayhem. The artwork is suitable for kids of all ages, with nothing too gross or terrifying; and, while some reviewers noted that the language is too sophisticated for younger readers, I didn’t get that impression at all. Then again, I don’t have any kids, so grain of salt.

As far as language goes, I wish Cosmo had opted to use the personal pronouns he/she in place of it, which is objectifying to presumably sentient animals. These monsters are someones, not somethings, yo!

This full-color book is best viewed on a laptop, PC, or iPad, but is also easily readable on a Kindle.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2014-04-22

April 23rd, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Mayim’s Breakfast Burritos

April 22nd, 2014 11:36 am by Kelly Garbato

(…for dinner. Always for dinner!)

2014-04-17 - MVT Breakfast Burrito - 0003 [flickr]

So if you already own Mayim’s Vegan Table, you’ll immediately notice that I made a few changes to this recipe. Instead of unpressed, diced tofu – which I’m not really keen on – I used pressed, crumbled tofu to make a scramble. Also, I didn’t have any black beans (SHANE!), so I used navy beans instead. And, as per usual, I shredded my spinach, since cooked spinach gives me the willies. (It’s all slimy and wilty, much like spoiled spinach. Ew!)

Hmmmm. Maybe I should start a tag for fussy eaters. You think? “Fussy eater problems,” or something like that.

Anyway, it’s a solid recipe that’s easy enough to modify based on what ingredients you have on hand. Not quite a scramble, but easily made into one. I’ll admit that the mix of maple syrup and apple cider vinegar made me a little nervous, but you don’t really taste either in the finished product.

Plus you just can’t go wrong with Daiya cheese or burritos. Not. Possible.

tweets for 2014-04-21

April 22nd, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Promised Land, C.D. Verhoff (2013)

April 21st, 2014 3:07 pm by Kelly Garbato

So close!

three out of five stars

(Caution: minor spoilers ahead.)

Over fifty years ago, an alien race called the Celeruns made themselves known to the world’s governments. A colonizing species, their intentions were anything but peaceable; rather, Earth’s alien invaders unleashed a plague specially bioengineered to destroy humanity. While most people did indeed succumb to the plague, a small minority not only survived, but thrived: altered genes gave them special abilities called “charismas.” The ability to see the past through the eyes of those who have lived it; to float objects with one’s mind; to bring forth new plant life in the blink of an eye. A slowing of the aging process, resulting in near-immortality. Visions and prophecies. Basically every superpower you can imagine.

Tired of waiting for humanity to peter out slowly, the Celeruns sent in soldiers to finish off the stragglers. Following a principle popular among middle schoolers – “If I can’t have this planet, then no one can” – the survivors decided to trigger a nuclear Armageddon rather than allow Earth to fall into alien hands. Minus their leader Red the First – who perished on a suicide mission – the surviving members sought refuge in an underground military bunker in Ohio, patiently waiting for the day when the planet would regenerate and become habitable again.

Fast-forward forty years. The Galatians – as this community now calls itself – are forced topside, generations ahead of schedule, when a cave-in and resulting fire destroy their home. They emerge to find a wasteland; crowds of stunned refugees choke the bunker’s exits, choosing death by fire over the hellscape that was once America. Moved by his people’s anguish, Red the Second – who succeeded his mother as Mayor of Galatia – attempts to use his charisma to green the planet. At first blush, it appears to work: noxious yellow fumes are replaced by blue skies and lush plant life in a matter of seconds. Only later will the Galatians learn that Red actually thrust them forward in time – to the tune of a hundred thousand years, give or take a millennia.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-04-20

April 21st, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Busy Dizzy, Dr. Orly Katz (2014)

April 20th, 2014 9:44 am by Kelly Garbato

Banishing Your Inner Bumbling Bernice

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received an electronic copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Member Giveaway program.)

Negative Nellies and Nervous Nancies. Shy Stevens, even! Young and old, we all have them: the negative voices in our heads that tell us what we can and cannot do; that doom us to failure or – worse still – dissuade us from even trying.

With Busy Dizzy, Dr. Orly Katz provides parents, guardians, and educators with a tool to help children ward off these unhelpful, bothersome thoughts. The first forty pages comprise a full-color, illustrated picture book that, through simple, rhyming verse, teaches children to identify and defeat their inner Busy Dizzies. This is followed by ten pages of activities and exercises to help kids (and adults!) get the most out of the book.

The artwork is serviceable, but could use a little work; otherwise, Busy Dizzy is a fun little book that adults can use to help children bolster their self-esteem and overcome self-doubt. I also appreciate that the illustrator(s) included at least one little boy of color in the classroom.

Since it’s heavy on color and illustrations, Busy Dizzy looks best on an iPad or PC, but is readable on a Kindle as well.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2014-04-19

April 20th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Creamy, Cheesy Nondairy Kugel

April 19th, 2014 1:00 pm by Kelly Garbato

2014-04-16 - MVT Nondairy Kugel - 0003 [flickr]

2014-04-16 - MVT Nondairy Kugel - 0013 [flickr]

When Peedee got a clean(ish) bill of health of Tuesday, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or scarf down a giant bowl of mac & cheese. No surprise here: I did all three. As it turns out, the cookbook I’m currently reviewing has two (TWO!) recipes for vegan macaroni and cheese.

This one’s the Kugel which, while not technically mac & cheese, is close enough me for me. I mean, just look at it! (LOOK. AT. IT!) Creamy Daiya cheese sauce. Breadcrumbs browned on top. With just “a touch of sour cream for that classic and slightly tart kugel taste.” Sooooo good.

Since I knew this dish was to be baked – and baking mac & cheese often dries it out – I made a little extra sauce and thinned it out too, with an additional 1/2 cup of soy milk and handful of cheddar Daiya on top of what’s required. Worked like a charm: the sauce was still super-rich and creamy even after 25 minutes in the oven.

My only complaint? The onions tasted a bit raw for me. Next time I think I’ll sautee them in the same saucepan used to make the cheese sauce, rather than add them uncooked to the pasta. Baking just didn’t get ‘em done, imho.

On another note, Shane used his portion as a burrito filling! Maybe I can has a burrito-themed VeganMoFo after all? (Burritos are like pizza: everything goes great in them!)

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-04-18

April 19th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Holy Leaning Tower of Eggplant Parmesan, Batman!

April 18th, 2014 1:35 pm by Kelly Garbato

2014-04-15 - TOE Eggplant Parm Stacks - 0005 [flickr]

So I bought an eggplant and then promptly forgot why I bought said eggplant. Long story short, it started to get a little questionable, just hanging around in my fridge, so I decided to try the Eggplant Parmesan Stacks from Mark Reinfeld’s Taste of Europe. You know, since I couldn’t figure out which damn recipe I’d intended to make.

The result was…okay. I think I would have liked it better if I’d skinned the eggplant and sliced it thinner. The skin just didn’t soften up as much as I’d hoped, and the middle of the stack stayed a bit spongy even though the bottom pieces were perfectly tender; mushy, even. It’s a solid recipe though, and I bet I’d love it with green zucchini. The huge ones that spring up in my garden around July. (Mmmmm, summer.)

Anyway, I suspect I’m just not that into eggplant. IT’S SO HARD BEING A FUSSY EATER, Y’ALL.

2014-04-15 - TOE Eggplant Parm Stacks - 0003 [flickr]

tweets for 2014-04-17

April 18th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Glitter & Doom: A Masque of the Red Death Story, Bethany Griffin (2013)

April 17th, 2014 5:32 pm by Kelly Garbato

Beauty and the Nerd

four out of four stars

Set in the same world as Masque of the Red Death and its sequel, Dance of The Red Death, Glitter & Doom is a short story (about 50 pages, give or take) that focuses on two of the series protagonists, April and Kent. The blurb for Glitter & Doom promises that it will show us what happened to April when she mysteriously disappeared for much of Masque of the Red Death – and while some of the story does indeed take place between the two novels, it also functions as a prequel of sorts, giving us an idea of what life was like for April and Elliott during their imprisonment in Price Propsero’s castle.

There are two main parts to Glitter & Doom: “Glitter,” which is told from April’s perspective, and “Doom,” in which the narrative switches to Kent.

“Glitter” opens with a spectacle in Prince Prospero’s throne room. An eleven-year-old April and her mother are forced to look on as Prospero commands Elliott to torture a young boy in front of the court. He refuses and suffers terribly for his defiance. Fast forward five years, and we meet April as she waits in line for the opening of a new nightclub, The Morgue. Here she’s approached by a mysterious robed woman who attempts to lure her into the Debauchery Club instead. The women are attacked en route and April barely escapes with her life. It’s a year after this incident that April and her new-ish friend Araby are stood up (seemingly) by brother Elliot at the Debauchery Club. She and Araby are drugged – by one of Reverend Malcontent’s men, it turns out – and April is kidnapped…only to find herself imprisoned underground with Kent, her brother’s nerdy friend.

“Doom” shifts the focus to Kent, who’s been kidnapped by Malcontent and forced to build a bomb – the very bomb that will be used to destroy Elliott’s ship Discovery in Masque of the Red Death. We learn a little bit of Kent’s back story (which is both adorable and heartbreaking), and see how the characters’ story arcs intersect at various points throughout the duology. He and April manage to escape, but not before Prospero burns Kent’s childhood home to the ground – and the “frivolous” rich girl and the nerdy, nearly-blind inventor start to fall for one another. The story ends with the explosion of Discovery – and Elliott and Kent’s plans for revolution.

I actually really enjoyed Glitter & Doom, even if it’s a bit overpriced at $2.99. (The story goes by very quickly.) I came to loathe the love triangle between Araby, Elliott, and Will, especially as it takes center stage in Dance of the Red Death; personally, I find this blossoming romance between April and Kent much more compelling. This one’s worth a read for fans of the series, especially if you’re curious about these supporting characters.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2014-04-16

April 17th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Dance of the Red Death, Bethany Griffin (2013)

April 16th, 2014 2:26 pm by Kelly Garbato

In which Poe is Eclipsed by a Love Triangle

three out of five stars

Araby Worth’s world is on fire.

Set immediately after the events of Masque of the Red Death, Dance of the Red Death sees Araby and her allies – April, Elliott, Will, Henry, Elise, Kent, and Thom – fleeing from the city to regroup before trying to regain control of the city from the opposing armies of Prince Prospero and Reverend Malcontent. In a world already decimated by the Weeping Sickness, a new plague – the Red Death – threatens to wipe humanity off the map. Faced with this new danger, and fueled by Malcontent’s bombs, violence sweeps through the city – even as many citizens attempt to flee to the relative safety (emphasis on “relative”) of Prince Prospero’s castle.

Inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe short story of the same name, Masque of the Red Death imagines a society crumbling under the weight of poverty, class warfare, and disease. In the first book, we saw as protagonist Araby Worth slowly transformed from a depressed – if privileged – teenager, wracked with grief over her brother’s death, into a budding revolutionary. In Dance of the Red Death this promise is fulfilled as Araby, Elliott, and Will travel back into the city in order to save it.

The story culminates with the masked ball first given life by Poe. Temporarily separated from her friends, Araby – now considered a hero among the people in light of her rescue of dozens of young orphans slated to be sacrificed by Prospero in the name of “entertainment” – is kidnapped by the Prince and imprisoned in his castle. The night of the ball, she’s to embark on a treasure hunt through the seven interconnected chambers, where the Prince has hidden objects (and people) important to her. The Red Death makes his appearance just as Araby reaches the black room with its imposing ebony clock. I hesitate to say anything more because spoilers.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-04-15

April 16th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Mini-Review: Edgar Allan Poe’s the Masque of the Red Death, David Cutts (1982)

April 15th, 2014 3:28 pm by Kelly Garbato

Poe for kids!

three out of five stars

This version of “The Masque of the Red Death” is an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story for Troll Associates, a publisher of children’s books. I guess it’s questionable whether this tale is even suitable for kids. (As I remember it, I cherished this book as a child, as evidenced by my name stamped in the front cover and surrounded by hearts; then again, some of my earliest memories are of my dad reading me bedtime stories by Stephen King. So there’s that.) Nevertheless, Cutts successfully captures the spirit of Poe’s story, relaying it in a style easily understood by younger readers.

Though many lines are either cut or altered, the general plot and tone remain the same. As the Red Death sweeps the country, Prince Prospero barricades himself and one thousand revelers inside his castle estate. For six months, the partygoers evade the plague; that is, until the night the Price throws an especially elaborate and gruesomely themed ball. One of the guests arrives dressed as the unthinkable: the Red Death. The Prince doesn’t know it yet – but by daybreak, everyone in the castle will be dead.

The three-star rating (well, 3.5 stars, rounded down on Amazon) is due mostly to the artwork, which really isn’t to my taste.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2014-04-14

April 15th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato