January 21, 2013
“You have my whole heart. You always did. You’re the best guy. You always were.”
-Cormac McCarthy, The Road
January 10, 2013
Every year between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day our family consumes a ginormous amount of black-eyed peas; but, I may have finally gone a little bit overboard. This year my black-eyed pea eating marathon started around noon on New Year’s Eve when I started cooking them and ended late on New Year’s evening when I polished off what was left.
We’ve always said that you can never eat too many peas on New Year’s since they’re supposed to bring you good luck, but I’m sure that I probably consumed several hundred of those little black eyes. Is that overkill?
Don’t know yet. I guess time will tell.
Our Southern family tradition has always been to serve ham, black-eyed peas, greens and cornbread at midnight on New Year’s Eve. We’ve done it for as long as I can remember and I continue to do it every year whether it’s for a large group of friends or just our family. This was last year’s dinner plate.
This year we were invited to a neighbor’s house for New Year’s Eve so I decided at the last minute to make this Cheesy Black-Eyed Pea Dip to share with our friends for some added good luck!
Cheesy Black-Eyed Pea Dip
(adapted from Recipe Girl)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
16 ounces Mexican-style or regular Velveeta
3 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed & drained
1 medium jalapeño pepper, seeded, ribs removed & diced
1 can stewed tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chilies, drained
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until golden brown. Turn heat to low, add the cheese and stir until melted. Add peas, peppers, chilies, tomatoes, and garlic salt. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour into a crock pot or and serve hot with chips.
Note: I couldn’t find the Mexican Velveeta at my store so I used the regular instead and just added some chopped stewed tomatoes, an extra can of green chilies and an extra can of peas to make it a little chunkier. I also eliminated the green onions from the original recipe because I just don’t like them.
This dip is very similar to another family favorite and one of the guys’ most requested football watching snacks; the infamous Rotel Dip. The main difference between the two dips is that this one uses the black-eyed peas instead of ground beef, which makes it perfect for vegetarians.
And, something tells me that BigSis knows exactly how to turn this recipe into a yummy vegan dip.
BigSis’ Vegan Twist: You got that right, LilSis. No one loves a dip more than mwah, and I’ve probably eaten my weight in that Rotel dip over the pre-vegan years!
This is actually a pretty easy recipe to veganize. Just nix the Velveeta and substitute a vegan queso. You can find several brands on the shelves of Whole Foods and other grocers who carry natural foods. I prefer to make my own with just a few ingredients like flour, nooch, tomatoes with chiles, and a bunch of spices. It sounds weird/gross, but I even feed it to non-vegetarians and they eat it up.
I started with a bunch of sauteed garlic, jalapeno and onion then built my usual queso and tossed in the peas.
My version of the black-eyed pea dip is thicker than the Velveeta version, and not that photogenic really, but I’m fine with that. It’s darn tasty, and now it’s gone. Happy new year, everyone!
December 30, 2012
Could I get a drumroll please? The total for 2012′s charity bake sale benefiting In-Sync Exotics is…
You read that right. After all the contributions were counted and our sponsor matched them dollar for dollar, the grand total was $15,192. Unbelievable!
We, first of all, thank God for blessing this event! We experienced a lot of challenges and spiritual warfare during the planning and execution of this year’s sale. When that happens, it’s always a sign to me that we’re on the right track to something awesome if the Enemy is interfering to that extent. He was and we were!
Second of all, thank you to our sponsors. Paper Mart provided us with a generous discount on all of our packaging, which helped us enormously. Since all of our ingredients, packaging, printing and every other expense comes out of our personal pockets, we really appreciated Paper Mart’s help. Thank you, Paper Mart!
City Vet was back as a third-time sponsor, and we are so grateful for everything they’ve done for our event. They help promote it via social media, and have donated gift cards and a wide variety of fun things for us to sell and give away. They’ve also shopped with us, so we’re doubly blessed by them and their friendship. Thank you, City Vet!
We, of course, are extremely thankful for the 100% matching gift provided for the second year by our employer. We hope these checks will continue to grow each year as they have been so far! 2011′s match was $4,175 and 2012′s was $7,596.
Huge appreciation also goes to the In-Sync Exotics volunteer who donated $2,500 to the bake sale total. You, kind lady, are responsible for $5,000 of the $15,192 that went to In-Sync this year. We don’t even know what to say about that, except that your generosity is an enormous blessing to the big cats and everyone who cares for them. Thank you!
Last – but absolutely not least – I want to thank all of the bakers! My co-workers Kristen and Lauren were back with all their goodies, and also recruited Erica and Susan for cookie duty. My SisMama baked 105 pound cakes (!), and Cyndi brought a wealth of brownies in all flavors. Thanks for doing this with me, girls! We make a good team!
Because we were so darn busy (good problem) during this year’s sale, my photography was a little rushed and skimpy. Following are the photos I did manage to snap before the goodies were snapped up by lots of hungry people with Christmas shopping lists and cash in their hands. Thank you to everyone who made this happen for the wild ones at In-Sync Exotics. We are beyond grateful!
December 16, 2012
After much planning, shopping, fretting, stressing, and finally baking, wrapping and packaging…the 2012 Bake Sale benefiting In-Sync Exotics is here! The only things left to do now are to sell like crazy, and pray, pray, pray!
I promised to talk about this year’s goodies, but apparently I got too immersed in actually working on the goodies to get that done! I will absolutely put together a post-sale follow-up with a bunch of photos and results from the day.
Before I get back to sale preparations, I have to say again that we just can’t thank our sponsors enough for their support. We are very, very grateful to City Vet, Paper Mart and Venable Royalty. This event would definitely not be as successful without everything they do for us, so thank you!
Wish us luck. For the wild ones!!
December 6, 2012
Our 2012 charity bake sale for In-Sync Exotics is right around the corner on Monday, December 17th, and we are full of gratitude and excitement about it! It’s the season to be thankful, so let me count the reasons!
I have lots of baking to do, and ribbon to cut, and tags to make, and tweets and pins and instagram photos and facebook statuses to post, so I’m out for now. I’ll report back this weekend with our list of goodies to entice you.
For now, thanks, thanks, and more thanks to our supporters! If the wild kitties at In-Sync Exotics could thank you, they would, so I’ll speak on their behalf. Oodles of thanks, chuffs and purrs to you all!
November 25, 2012
It’s bake sale time, which means recipe testing time, and that means this update will be short and sweet! I’m up to my eyeballs in recipes, treat bags, press releases, and save the date postcards!
So let’s get to it. One of my co-workers brought these Graham Cracker Pralines to the office, and I thought they were super delicious. Nabisco Original Graham Crackers are accidentally vegan, so I only had to swap an Earth Balance stick for the butter to veganize this simple little recipe.
There are lots of recipes for this treat online; I started with Betty Crocker’s Quick Praline Bars recipe. Basically, you lay graham crackers out on a cookie sheet (I lined it with non-stick foil). You combine brown sugar with the Earth Balance, and let it boil for one minute. Then add vanilla, pour the mixture over the crackers, sprinkle pecans over it all, and bake it for 8 to 10 minutes til bubbly. Pretty easy, right?
Some of the reviewers online had various problems with this recipe, but I had none of them. Whew! They firmed up nicely, they didn’t stick, they didn’t fall apart, and they taste pretty darn good!
I think these are going to make the cut for this year’s bake sale, which is scheduled for Monday, December 17th and benefits In-Sync Exotics. BTW, we’re looking for individuals and companies to match what we raise, so let us know if you can help with that endeavor!
I’m off to try a new Almond Biscotti. I’ll let you know if it gets to come to the party or not!
Note added later: Nope, the Almond Biscotti has to sit out this party. That’s ok though, we have plenty of winners to bring!
November 18, 2012
If you had come to my door sometime in the last twelve years, my official welcoming committee – consisting of one rescued FlamePoint Siamese lover boy – would have greeted you with something like this:
“My name’s Ashy Poo, what’s your name? Do you have any cheese in that bag? Do you think I’m pretty? Do you have any dogs? Are you going to sit down so I can sit by you? What’s that smell on your shoes? Do you want to pet me? Do you have any chips? Isn’t my blonde hair stunning? Can you get me some treats? Can I play with your shoelaces? Did you know I used to live on the street? Have you ever seen a tail as long as mine? Don’t you think my mom is nice? Do you want to brush me?” And on and on. Rapid fire, without a breath. Ashy Poo never met a stranger, and loved everyone.
Ashy dealt with a LOT of challenges in his life, and I wonder what our attitude would be if we faced all of this in one twelve-year period:
Just imagine how many doctor visits and how many medications were involved in all that! I can tell you my state of mind would probably be “poor, poor me” if that was my life, but Ashy Poo didn’t feel that way at all.
Life – according to Ashy Poo – is beautiful.
Ashy Poo had a pretty simple list of life principles, and no one lived them out like he did:
That’s the walk that Ashy Poo walked for the twelve years he spent with us. His long list of challenges finally got to be too much for his fragile body, and we suddenly lost him last Monday.
We miss this boy like crazy. We invested so much hope, emotion, time and love into this precious soul, and we fought his challenges together for a long time. It’s weird that all that is just gone now, and our lives feel off balance in every way.
I’m very thankful that he knew how much we were all madly in love with him, beyond a shadow of a doubt. He knew he was cherished, and as he was taking his last breaths I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to tell him that again and again.
Ashy leaves behind his lonely furry brother Gaby, and a huge extended family of hoomans who loved him and won’t forget his sweet spirit and the lessons he taught us. We’ll do our best to follow his example, and even thought we’re beyond sad, we’re going to purr again.
That’s what Ashy Poo would want us to do. Keep on purring. Because life according to Ashy Poo is beautiful, and the life he’s living right now is more beautiful than any of us can imagine. We’ll see you again, Ashy Poo. We love you and we miss you, sweet baby. Forgive us if we can’t find our purr just yet.
November 4, 2012
I may have just found a blowout product that’s near perfect. Alterna Perfect Blowout Cream has lots of things going for it that my hair absolutely loves:
That’s a lot to love! There’s just one thing that keeps Alterna Perfect Blowout Cream from being completely perfect. Alterna says their products are not animal tested, and I’ve seen comments online from people who have emailed Alterna for confirmation, and have gotten it. I thought Alterna’s products were not animal-tested, and that’s why I’ve been comfortable buying them.
However, PETA’s Caring Consumer web site doesn’t list Alterna on the “does test” list or on the “does not test” list. That means they’re one of the many companies in-between. Maybe they don’t test and they haven’t documented it yet for PETA. Or maybe they outsource their testing so their hands don’t get dirty. At this point, I don’t know why they’re in limbo land.
I haven’t contacted Alterna directly myself yet, so I don’t have any first-hand information. I’ll report back with anything I find to give us a comfort zone with Alterna products.
If indeed Alterna does NOT animal test, then yes, this blowout cream would literally be perfect. Utterly, astoundingly, stunningly perfect. It’s that good. I really hope I can keep using it.