a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
27 July 2015 05:12 - "Outnumbered a million to one"
zombie, retro, tired, groggy, video games
The next time I say I can do RWA in NYC without taking time off from my regular work, tell me I'm wrong. Tell me loudly and firmly.

This post brought to you by my very sore arms from doing a whooooole lot of catch-up work tonight, and more to do tomorrow.

Poor arms. I quit PT too soon, I think, or maybe it just didn't do enough good. I've upgraded my insurance so I'm going to try some fancier physical therapists and see whether they can help more. That means commuting into Manhattan but oh well, arms are worth it, and at least once a week I can do it on a day I'd be in Manhattan anyway.

RWA was mostly exhausting. I didn't get to any program items at all. I went to five cocktail parties in one night and two the following night. I skipped the award ceremony, though I watched from home until the livestream cut out (and cheered [twitter.com profile] tiffanyreisz). I felt lost and alone in the sea of people I didn't know. I saw a lot of people I probably know on Twitter but didn't recognize. A few people who knew me from Twitter said hello. I met a few people who were really nice. I hung out with a few people I already knew. I wore my pronoun button and it was consistently ignored, including by people I'd just finished explaining it to. Everything was very white and Christian and het and cis and I felt very uncomfortably marginalized pretty much the whole time, all the more so because my experiences at Readercon were so totally different. Now I'm more wary of going to WFC, where I won't know as many people as I do at Readercon and where there hasn't been a massive cultural change toward treating people like me as human beings, but I don't know whether that's exhaustion anxiety talking.

I got no good sleep last night, and I only know that I slept at all because I had a really unpleasant dream about being sexually assaulted. My SleepBot motion tracker looks like a ventricular fibrillation ECG. I was so exhausted that I burst into tears midday for no reason at all. I pulled myself together to spend a little time with J before he left for a week-long business trip. Then I caffeinated, got work done, went to an absolutely stellar TMBG show (one of the best I've ever seen, approaching the awesomeness of the 2007 Bowery Ballroom shows but with a totally different vibe; once that wiki page exists I'll put my full comments up there), and came home and got in a quick videochat with Josh and did more work and iced my sad sad arms (and my inexplicably sad left thumb--no idea what's up with that). Now it's nearly 6 a.m. and I don't even know what I'm feeling other than all the way through tired and out the other side. But I think I should sleep.


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focused, analytical, money
Okay, folks who've been to the World Fantasy Convention, talk me through why anyone does this.

* $270 for my half of a shared hotel room (Thursday/Friday/Saturday nights)
* $120 for Amtrak tickets if I buy them now, more if I buy them later
* $275 for convention membership (!)
* some unknown amount $55 for the awards banquet, probably comparable to the Nebula Banquet price of $80 (and who knows whether the banquet food can be made safe for people with allergies)
* let's say $150 for food over the course of several days without access to a supermarket and a kitchen

Total: $895 $870. At a time when all costs are seen through the filter of impending babyness.

I can't remember who suggested to me that one's publisher is supposed to pick up the tab when one is award-nominated. I would not dream of asking Crossed Genres to do this thing; they have many better uses for that money. It's not the sort of event that PW would cover, so even if WFC gives press passes (which I'm not sure they do), I couldn't justify requesting one. This is 100% out of pocket.

As far as I can tell, all the membership buys me is access to two tracks of panels and two more of readings, and first crack at banquet tickets (noting that if banquet tickets entirely sell out to members before the con, there's no way for a non-member to get one at the con). I don't really see why I should bother with either. I almost never go to programming at cons except for Readercon*; all cons are barcons to me. If the banquet were some incredibly important part of being a WFA nominee, presumably they'd comp it for the nominees, which they don't. So that cuts $355 $330 off the price right there. $540 looks somewhat more reasonable for a three-day convention. ($620 $595 if it turns out the banquet is worth going to, and if banquet tickets are made available to non-members at the convention.) If I need to drop it further I can go up Friday instead of Thursday, which reduces my costs to $400. As far as I can tell from looking at past programs, award nominees get their pins and are generally fêted on Thursdays, and the whole reason I'm going is to enjoy being a nominee... but is that worth an extra day of hotel and restaurant food? Maybe not.

* I might make an exception for RWA this year, but that's because it's so refreshing to go to a professional conference; the programming is completely different from what we get at SF cons. Incidentally, to give you an idea of why I think $275 for WFC is so absurdly high, RWA's admission fee ranges from $450 to $675 (depending on whether you're an RWA member and how early you buy a ticket), but that gets you 10 full tracks of workshops specifically aimed at professional development plus access to pitch sessions, pro headshots, meals with keynote speakers who excel in their field, and the mass book-signing, in the company of 4000 writers and publishing professionals. That is a professional conference.

The next question is, would it be worth $400 to me to go to WFC at all, even if Long Hidden weren't nominated for the WFA? Because if it's not worth $400 as a barconning attendee then it's not worth $900 as a nominee.

Everyone talks about WFC as a place where pros hang out with other pros. That's cool; I know and like a lot of pros. There are plenty of familiar names on the membership list. I'd be willing to pay $400 for a long weekend of socializing with my friends, and even to pay $620 $595 for that plus being celebrated as the co-editor of an award-worthy book; that sounds like a blast. But to be more specific, people talk about WFC as a place where pros hang out and network with other pros. The only thing I hate more than networking is being networked at. I'm happy to meet people in the field and get to know them, but once networking-minded folks realize that chatting with me won't get them a more favorable PW review, they tend to wander off and find someone more productive to network with. Even if I have lots of friends at WFC, I won't really see much of them if their priority is making connections with people they don't know. This sort of setup is not terribly conducive to me having a good time.

So if you've been to WFC, please do tell: is it possible to do it as a three-day barcon, with actual socializing rather than networking, if one already knows a great many of the people who are going? And if you've attended WFC as a WFA nominee, what was the experience like for you at the convention, especially if you'd never been before?

EDIT: I'm told by a past attendee that one must purchase a membership in order to attend the awards ceremony at all. Even as a nominee. Wow. So that $275 really is not optional. CORRECTION TO EDIT: The WFC chair (whom I'm happy to regard as an authority on this topic) says that no membership is required for the award ceremony; it's open to the public. And the banquet tickets will be $50 to $55, so I've updated my calculations above accordingly.

I have a second post here looking at the cost of attending WFC vs. the cost of attending other conventions for award nominees who wouldn't otherwise go. It's not pretty.


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18 July 2015 01:46 - "I will leave and I'll return"
arm, strong, powerful, determined, workout
Readercon is like my New Year's, in that I say "After Readercon I will totally go low-carb again/get to bed on time/start going to the gym/start meditating again/stick to my daily and weekly schedule". So far I've been doing pretty well on the sleep, and Wednesday and today I went to the gym (trying to get in the M/W/F habit), and yesterday I started Headspace over from day one. I'm still catching up on work but determined to really get and stay on track, and good sleep at good hours is helping with the scheduling. I also ate pasta for dinner and half a bar of chocolate for dessert, so I remain an imperfect human being. It was really tasty and I regret nothing.

Pumping iron, with numbersCollapse )

I'm doing Headspace as walking meditation, or on the exercise bike on gym days, so that gets me out of the house and moving around every day. The three of us are also going to try to get in the habit of post-dinner walks on family dinner nights. Yay, solidarity in fitness. :)

So far I think the exercise and meditation is making it a lot easier to calmly wind things down and go to bed when it's bedtime. I have not played a video game in over a week, which is pretty major. I've only had a couple instances of opening Twitter or leaving it open well after I'm supposed to be asleep. Setting up my new phone led to a couple of days of my alarm not waking me (my "sleep" profile in Profile Scheduler+ was blocking alarms, oops), so I've been very well rested if also somewhat late. :) I just need to stay on track.


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17 July 2015 23:38 - "Or saving my appetite"
food
Very important info for people who eat a lot of rice and rice-based products, especially celiac/GF folks:

In January 2015, Consumer Reports put together a major report on arsenic in rice, including recommended consumption quantities for adults and children.

Primary takeaways:

1) Eat grains other than rice (CR's report includes info on arsenic content in various grains); if you really want to eat rice, eat rice grown outside the U.S.; if you really want to eat rice from the U.S., eat basmati rice from California.

2) For once, white rice is healthier than brown rice.

3) Rinse rice before cooking it, and cook it like pasta: use lots of water, and drain the excess water when the rice is cooked.

4) If you eat products made with rice, like GF pasta or rice crackers, check the manufacturer's website for a statement about arsenic testing and/or rice sourcing. There's a good compilation of manufacturer statements here.

I strongly encourage reading the entire report; it's pretty sobering stuff. Please share this info widely.


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13 July 2015 00:43 - "We would throw such a party"
readercon
Readercon in bullet points.

Lots and lots of bullet pointsCollapse )

Last year I cut way back on my Readercon volunteering and left the concom, and I just now sent an email resigning from the program committee and safety committee. It feels really good to be done, and to go out on such a high note.


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long hidden
Long Hidden is a World Fantasy Award finalist.

I'm sharing an award ballot with Ellen Datlow, one of the greatest SF/F anthologist to ever walk the earth.

*screams*
*faints*

I wasn't going to go to WFC because X will be seven months pregnant by then, but this is a pretty good incentive, and it is only a train ride away this year. So I've put my name on the membership waitlist and booked a hotel room. I'll get the whole nominee experience! How exciting! I'm anxious already!

Honestly, I'd totally forgotten that the WFAs even had an anthology category. Once the Locus Awards were done I figured that was it. So this was a complete shock and I'm still reeling.

On Twitter, hrj said, "Eventually you'll get used to having your work recognized." But it's entirely possible that Long Hidden is the only anthology that will ever have my name on the cover. It might even be the only book that ever has my name on the cover. Almost everything I do is behind the scenes, professionally and as a volunteer. So being recognized this way is a big, big deal for me, and not likely to happen again, and I'm going to savor every minute.


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booklust, reading, green, books
Note to self: when books feel like they're somehow too much, too intense or daunting or demanding, you might just be struggling with the idea that you get to have leisure time. You do. Don't fixate too much on the idea of reading, or of choosing exactly the right book, and turn it into something big and complicated. It isn't. Just pick up any good book--the house is full of them, your hard drive is full of them--and let yourself fall into it. It's not a commitment or a chore; it's a pleasure.

Don't do this at 2 a.m., though, or you'll be up far too late reading.


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you're welcome, origami, gift, helpful
In the past week, fires have started at seven churches in the American South, most of which have predominantly Black congregations. At least three of the fires have been determined to be arson--which is to say, acts of domestic terrorism. Media coverage on this has been scant, and most of the reports that do appear say things like "the events did not appear to be linked"; what they mean is that no single organization or individual appears to be behind all or most of the fires, but that phrasing rather appallingly elides the part where a specific community is being targeted in the context of other recent bias crimes.

An Episcopal church in St. Louis has started a collaborative effort to fund rebuilding the damaged churches. In addition to soliciting donations from individuals, they're asking congregations of all kinds to take up special collections for the cause. Info is here:

http://www.icontact-archive.com/M5YFYDA07SZXyilTdrSHc_yzvu9vHEAs?w=1
https://cccathedralstl.dntly.com/campaign/2571#/

(Thanks to mactavish for the links.)

Please donate if you can, and spread the word, especially to community leaders who can organize larger collection efforts.

If you regularly read or watch the news, and you haven't seen any coverage of these events, write letters to your favorite news organizations and ask them to cover the fires (ideally using the words "arson" and "terrorism") and to signal-boost the fundraiser. Make sure to mention that you're a subscriber or frequent reader/viewer.


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26 June 2015 21:24 - "She's lost from the beginning"
confused, trying to understand, hair
Parental folks, talk to me about planning parental leave. How do you know how long you want to take? Does it ever make sense to save some for later? Should we all take leave at the same time or stagger it? We all have some combination of parental leave and vacation time that gives us each at least 9 paid weeks off in 2016 (the baby's due in early January, which meshes nicely with the benefits year), and have no idea what to do with it.


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candle, birthday
Ever since I was a wee child, my mother's traditional cake for my birthday has been a vanilla or marble cake with chocolate ganache and "roses" made from raspberries and sugar-frosted mint leaves. I have so many memories of coming upstairs on my birthday morning to see her hovering over wire racks covered with mint leaves, fretting about whether it's too humid and hoping they'll dry in time. (Of course they always do.) There have been variations--square cakes and round cakes, semicircle cakes for my half-birthday, cupcakes the year I had a picnic party, dairy-free cakes (with dairy-free ganache!) after my pernicious allergy developed--but the soul of the cake has always been the same.

This year we're upstate visiting J's mom, so I made sure to buy raspberries while we were shopping for the weekend, and then tonight after dinner I mixed up a vanilla mug cake and dropped in chocolate chips and decorated it with a raspberry and two fresh leaves from the mint plant on the windowsill.



It was exactly as good as it should be: delicious and satisfying, while manifestly not a patch on the original. It'll last me the weekend. Maybe next week she'll make me the real thing. :)

Also, I got the BEST birthday present: getting to watch our proto-baby squirm and flail around on the 11-week ultrasound yesterday. "This one will play sports," the ultrasound tech said as she patiently waited for the wriggler to wriggle around in the correct way so measurements could be taken. X has been superstitiously waiting to use our chosen name for the proto-baby until it felt right (we've been calling them "Kiddo" in the meantime), and apparently seeing them so magnificently manifestly indubitably alive was sufficient to flip the "it felt right" switch. So now I get to call them by their name and that is making me very happy. (We haven't decided how to handle name stuff online yet, so for now they're still FutureKid in tweets and blog posts and so on. Hopefully we'll figure that out before FutureKid becomes ActualKid. :) )

If anyone wants to do anything in honor of my birthday, I ask that you do what you can to make the world safer and kinder for my child and everyone's children. Every little bit helps.


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shopping
I'm starting to put together a shopping list for babystuff. It's in a Google Sheets spreadsheet. Any experienced parents out there want to take a gander and tell me what I'm missing? If you're interested, leave a comment with the email address I should share the sheet with--all comments are screened--or email me.


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long hidden
I dreamed that I was at a convention in a big hotel somewhere, hanging out in the hotel lounge or lobby. Someone said "Oh, the Locus Awards are going on, let's watch!" and everyone turned to watch them on a big overhead TV. I realized that I hadn't asked anyone to give a thank-you speech for me in case Long Hidden won. In the dream there were people who could do Harry Potter–style magic, and so I thought I might be able to apparate over to Seattle, but the magic was like UNIX commands and needed passwords and proper syntax. I kept reading the manual over and over but I couldn't correctly pronounce the uppercase letters. Then I tried to magically transport a candy bar wrapper into a trash can (with accio, I think) and couldn't even do that. I woke up extremely frustrated, and my first waking thought was "Well, of course it didn't work, I didn't have a wand".

My second waking thought was, how do I even know so much about Potterverse magic?!

Also, I should really write a thank-you speech and give it to someone who's going to the awards. Just in case.


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futurekid-yay
X is pregnant. :D

There is one (1) embryo. So far it appears to be entirely healthy. Due date is early January. We've known for a month and not telling people has been AGONY. But now the news is out!

I will probably discontinue use of the babyfilter and just post under a cut tag--I know some of you folks have zero or negative interest in other people's babythings. Many thanks to everyone who's offered words of comfort, support, and advice over the year of IUI and IVF; it's been a pretty wild ride. But here we are!

:D :D :D


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spices, ginger, baking, cooking
I actually don't remember how long it's been since the last time I had dairy products. As a long-established dairy-defier, I frequently give advice to people who are reducing or eliminating dairy, and I figure it makes sense to have that info all in one place.

Allergen note
Almost all of my preferred creamy/buttery dairy substitutes are nut-based. I've done my best to make non-nut suggestions for those with nut allergies, but I'm not really an expert on that front.

Equipment note
If you're going to go fully dairy-free, I highly recommend investing in two kitchen tools: a high-speed blender and a food processor. Mine are made by Vitamix and Cuisinart respectively, and I don't know what I'd do without them. These tools will let you easily make dairy substitutes that are tastier and usually cheaper than the storebought ones. A less essential but still useful third tool is an ice cream maker, which will let you experiment with sorbets and non-dairy ice creams.

Shopping note
When buying packaged prepared foods, look for the word "parve" or "pareve" under a kosher symbol. Keeping kosher requires separating milk from meat; "parve" means that something contains neither milk nor meat and can therefore be eaten with either. This will save you a lot of time checking ingredient labels for sneaky things like whey in sandwich bread, casein in shredded fake cheese, etc. Note that parve things may still contain eggs, honey, and other non-vegan ingredients.

Essential reading
The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook has amazing recipes for butter, cheese, whipped cream, and other dairy substitutes. Throughout this piece, I'll be referring to NDEC recipes. I've read and used a lot of non-dairy cookbooks, and NDEC is by far the best. That said, note that almost all their recipes call for either nuts or soy as a base.

Now, on to the substitutions!

Milk (for drinking, cereal, smoothies, etc.)
This is totally a matter of taste. Try a bunch of different store-bought milks and see what you like. I prefer almond milk for cereal and soy or hazelnut milk for drinking. Hazelnut milk can be used to make amazing Nutella-like hot chocolate! You can also make your own nut milks in a high-speed blender. I use the NDEC recipe for almond milk, which is just almond meal (aka almond flour) and water, and it's intensely almondy and delicious. Coconut milk (the sort intended for drinking, not the sort that comes in a can) is the best non-nut non-soy option, in my opinion, but some people prefer rice milk. I do like making my own horchata, and should really try it again now that I have a Vitamix.

Proportions for almond milk: 3.75 c water to 1 packed cup almond meal/flour or 5 oz. blanched almonds

Proportions for almond cream: 4.5 c water to 1 POUND (one full bag) almond meal or blanched almonds

Butter (spread)
Earth Balance is the standout spreadable butter substitute. There are many varieties, including soy-free. NDEC has a butter recipe but I haven't tried it yet.

Butter (baking)
Melted butter can be replaced 1:1 with canola oil or melted REFINED coconut oil. (Unrefined coconut oil tastes like coconut. Refined tastes like nothing.) For butter sticks, try Earth Balance sticks, but be warned that they are pre-salted; if you use them, you'll probably want to reduce or omit any salt you usually put in your recipes. Fleischmann's unsalted margarine, which is kosher parve, is reportedly very good for baking, but I'm allergic to another ingredient in it so I can't personally vouch for it.

Cream
NDEC has an excellent almond cream recipe that substitutes well for heavy cream, including whipping up into schlag. Coconut cream—the thick stuff at the top of a can of coconut milk, not to be confused with pre-sweetened cream of coconut for cocktails—can also be put in coffee or whipped. There does exist canned non-dairy whipped cream, but it's quite hard to find outside of hippie specialty groceries.

Crème anglaise
My four-ingredient vegan recipe is here.

Sauce Hollandaise
My recipe is here. (Contains egg yolks, so not vegan.)

Sour cream and buttermilk
The easy way for making ingredients to use in recipes: add 1 Tbsp cider vinegar per cup of cream to make sour cream; add 1 tsp cider vinegar per cup of milk and let stand 5 minutes to make buttermilk. NDEC also has recipes for sour cream and buttermilk that stand well on their own.

Cream cheese
I never liked it, so I couldn't tell you which substitute is best, but NDEC has a recipe and there are a few packaged vegan cream cheese varieties available.

Yogurt
There are many, many soy and coconut yogurts out there. WholeSoy unflavored unsweetened yogurt is the best for cooking, and can be used as a starter if you want to make your own yogurt. I've never been a fan of eating yogurt qua yogurt, but I expect brands etc. are mostly a matter of taste anyway, so try some and see what you like.

Cheese
Cashew ricotta was one of the first substitute dairy products I ever made, and it was life-changing. Soak raw, unsalted cashews for four hours, pour out the water, put the cashews in your food processor, and drizzle in fresh cold water as you process them until the texture becomes creamy and ricotta-like. Add salt to taste. When I use it for lasagna, I process in fresh basil and nutmeg.

Regal Vegan makes a basil cashew ricotta called Basilicotta that's out of this world. Unfortunately, it goes off very quickly. If you buy it, make sure there's still plenty of time before the expiration date, and use it up as soon as you can.

NDEC has superb recipes for a wide variety of cheeses: some for slicing, some for shredding, some for eating by the fistful. I made NDEC's mozzarella with homemade almond milk and it was incredible; the texture wasn't quite perfect, but it was splendid on pasta and pizza, and yes, it melts! It doesn't get gooey, but next time I might add a bit of xanthan gum to help with that. The cheese melts best in steamy/liquid environments, such as when stirred into a pasta sauce. Under direct heat, it will brown but hold its shape. To get an effect like near-liquid melted mozzarella on pizza or lasagna, I recommend shredding the cheese, melting it in the microwave, and pouring it onto the dish. Then bake until browned and bubbly.

Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese isn't quite as good a cookbook as NDEC, but I do really like her gruyère recipe; it makes killer fondue and croque monsieur. Schinner's recipes frequently call for rejuvelac, which is made by soaking and fermenting grains. It's very easy to mess up rejuvelac and get a jar full of mold. My usual substitute for 1 cup of rejuvelac is 1 capsule (1/8 tsp.) of vegan probiotic powder in 1 cup filtered water. It's not quite as live-culture-y as rejuvelac but it works well enough.

Cheesemaking does take a bit of time and effort; if you're not up for that, try the many packaged shredded cheese substitutes. Lots of people like tapioca-based Daiya cheeses. My personal favorite packaged vegan mozzarella is Follow Your Heart (the shreds, not the block cheese). But homemade cheese is always the best.

As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as non-nut non-soy vegan cheese. If I were to try to make some, I'd probably make my own rice milk and then try it in a cheese recipe, but I don't know how well it would work without the soy/nut protein.

Frozen pizza
My preferred brands are Daiya and Amy's, not least because their pizzas are gluten-free. Udi's and Schär pizza crusts are also GF and DF.

Pre-sliced sandwich bread
Stroehmann Dutch Country whole wheat bread is my preferred brand, but any brand that's kosher parve will do.

Milk powder
If a recipe calls for both milk powder and water, replace the water with your preferred non-dairy milk. I haven't tried powdered non-dairy milk but apparently it exists.

Frozen desserts
I recommend exploring homemade sorbets and granitas before you try tackling homemade non-dairy ice cream. Williams-Sonoma has some good recipes. A Vitamix blender can also be used to turn frozen fruit into frozen desserts; there are instructions for this in the manual.

Once you're ready to make your own ice cream, check out the recipes in Mark Foy's Desserts of Vitality. Almost all of them call for lecithin, an emulsifier that's extremely useful for making smooth, creamy ice cream; you can get liquid or granulated lecithin (and many other useful ingredients, especially for cheesemaking) at Modernist Pantry. Those with soy allergies can look for sunflower lecithin.

For store-bought ice cream, Turtle Mountain brands—Soy Delicious, So Delicious, Purely Delicious, etc.—are consistently excellent. In my experience, all coconut-based vegan ice cream tastes basically like coconut, no matter what else it's supposed to taste like. As a rule I prefer nut-based ice creams over soy-based ice creams, but tastes vary a lot. Try things and see what you like.


What did I miss? Is anything unclear? Ask all the questions you like!


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12 November 2012 02:36 - "Tasty tasty monster"
spices, ginger, baking, cooking
Recipes, as promised!

Vegan gruyèreCollapse )

Vegan béchamel sauceCollapse )

Greek meatballs in olive tomato sauceCollapse )

Chocolate mug cakeCollapse )

Tonight I started a batch of fresh mozzarella and a half-batch of sharp cheddar. (Note to self: half-batches do not have enough mass for the blender to work.) Wednesday my lovely nearby natural grocery will get in unsweetened unflavored soy yogurt and then I can make meltable mozzarella! I was never this excited about cheese back when I could have dairy, but right now it seems like the most exciting thing in the world. That croque monsieur made my week.


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