Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Vegan Jerky and other Goodness

Hey everyone. I've been working very hard over the past week to build up my other author persona, and all that goes with it.. Like I said, H.A. Larson won't be as active, but I will still be somewhat active, never fear! To that end, I have a new post today about my first shipment from my monthly subscription to the Louisville Vegan Jerky of the Month Club. I bought a few of their jerkies over the holidays, and fell in love. I also got a few other vegan goodies that I thought I'd share. 





The card that came in my first box! Every month, the Louisville Vegan Jerky company sends out two of their regular flavors plus one of their test batch flavors. This month the test batch is Smokey Carolina BBQ.




Here we have the two standard flavors, Maple Bacon and Sriracha Maple, surrounding the lovely test batch of Smokey Carolina BBQ. Let me tell you...that BBQ one is amazing! I sure hope they turn that one into a regular.




Like many vegans, I love Hampton Creek. They've found a way to veganize things that still taste good. Their mayo tastes like regular mayo using vegan ingredients. I finally located one (just one sadly) tub of their cookie dough at Super Target, which will never get baked let me tell you. They have been announcing regularly on their facebook page that they would be selling their Ranch dressing at Walmart, and luckily, I found it at my local one. I bought two bottles! 




The only Miyoko cheese carried at the store that I hadn't tried was the Double Cream Sundried Tomato and Garlic, so I picked one up as well. Oh my goodness! It's like eating at Isa's Modern Love...there's no bad one!  


So there was my most righteous vegan haul. Hope you enjoyed it, and give one or more of them a try!

Much love,

H.A.









Saturday, March 26, 2016

Dreams and Being Inspired




This post is going to be part musing and part announcement. As you all know, I've been working on my fourth book called "The Box". As is the case with every book I've written, the beginning and the ending go rather quickly, but the middle always drags as I get the "meat" of the developed. I'm used to this and it's not a big deal. I've noticed with this book though, that I'm just not currently feeling inspired, but I keep plugging away on it though albeit very slow.

I have been, however, feeling inspired lately to write a different kind of story all together. One that is gritty, sexy, and, at times, violent. This is the kind of story I love to read, and have always dreamed of writing. I have dystopian ideas swirling around in my head, beckoning me to put them down on paper...so I am. I have another pen name that has written a couple of terrible, short, cheesy 'smut' books, and using this moniker, I'm going to write my inspired ideas of dystopian tales. 

Does this mean I'm giving up on H.A. Larson? Absolutely not, but I think after I write my dystopian tale, that I can find the inspiration I need to make "The Box" the exact kind of horror story I can be proud of. I'll still be keeping up with all my social media, and I will definitely keep putting up my posts here of all the things I enjoy most in life.

And don't worry, you'll all be kept exclusively in the loop regarding my next phase of writing life.

Upwards to dreams, inspirations, and the future.

All my love, H.A.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Monday Edition #3

 Hey everyone! Sorry I was absent the last few days. I had a typical Monday (coming right up!) which ended with me not feeling very well. Yesterday, the sickness (stomach flu more than likely) reared it's ugly head and all I did was sleep and moan a lot. I'm still feeling a bit icky today, but I've taken some meds and am getting back into the swing of things. 

The last three Mondays (my day off during the week) have been absolutely perfect. The weather has been just right, allowing me to get things done and indulge in my favorite activity: being outside, particularly as it pertains to hiking. This week I went to Hitchcock Nature Center. A quick drive over the river into Iowa, this park used to be a YMCA camp at one point before being privately purchased by a man who wanted to turn it into a huge garbage dump. Some citizens challenged him in court, and eventually, wrested control of this beautiful area from him and turned it into a county park that is pure heaven to enjoy. It's one of my favorite places to be next to Neale Woods (see Monday Edition #1).





A view from the topmost part of the park at the Lodge. From here you can survey the beautiful land rolling up and down the Loess Hills. The Loess (pronounced Luss) Hills are so-named for the soil they are comprised of, and only a few places in the world have this soil. Nestled among the flatness of the Midwest landscape, these Hills provide a mountainesque experience for those of us who live here.




A view from the beginning of the trail called "The Chute". It's hard if you're going up, but not so much going down. Don't be fooled though, sometimes going down can be almost as treacherous as going up.




"Hidden Valley" trail is so named as it's hidden from sight on top of all the hills that surround it as it's nestled amongst a canopy of trees. The trees are just starting to bud, and, as you can see, the grass is returning to green.




Many logs were carefully piled up in stacks along the trails here and there. Old, dead trees are cut down and chopped into firewood which are then sold to those who camp out here at the park for use in their bonfires. Primitive sites are only $10/night.




This view is looking the opposite direction from the lodge, directly into the Loess Hills, part of which I was standing on, and part of which you can see off in the distance. It's a beautiful touch of majestic for us flat-land dwellers. I take a picture from this exactly spot every season. If you look through my posts...you might find them all!




The duality of the trail made possible through a hidden fork in the trail. Even the stark, bare trees look content and peaceful here. Is it any wonder I adore being outside?


I hope your day is bright and lovely. 

-H.A.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring is Here!


It's official: Spring is here! There's nothing like Spring to bridge the gap between Winter doldrums and Summer heat. Next to Fall, it's my favorite time of the year. Spring brings a sense of renewal and awakens the earth to the beauty of a new year.

For a naturaphile (I just made that up) like myself, it's the perfect time of the year to take in Mother Nature. The weather isn't too hot, it isn't too cold, and the mosquitos won't be trying to bite until Summer. It's also the most beautiful time of the year (again, next to Fall) when the flowers are in bloom, the leaves reappear to the trees, and everything is a lovely shade of green. 

Be prepared for many hiking days complete with beautiful photos and a conversation, and if it's a lovely day where you are...get outside.

-H.A.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Seitan Wings



The other night, for St. Patrick's Day, I decided to mix up some seitan so I could make a proper Irish stew, complete with stout. As I was cutting pieces off the seitan to throw into some simmering broth, I recalled the wonderful seitan wings I had had a few times at the Benson Brewery. I decided instantly that I needed to turn half of the seitan into some wings, and I'm forever grateful for that decision. My husband says I need to make ten pounds of these from now on. 

We covered half of them in homemade buffalo sauce (for my husband) and the other half in bbq sauce (for me). We served both styles with FYH's vegan Blue Cheese dressing. It was amazingly delicious and I'm pretty sure I'm going to be making these often. 


Vegan Seitan Wings


Ingredients:


1 1/3 c. vital wheat gluten
1 t. each of granulated garlic, granulated onion, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper
1 T. each of parsley and steak seasoning
1 c. warm water
6 c. vegetable stock
1/2 c. flour (any kind) for dredging
oil for frying
sauces of choice for coating
sauce of choice for dipping


Instructions:

1. Put the vegetable stock in a large pan and set it on the stove over medium-high heat.

2. Mix the vital wheat gluten, spices, and warm water in a mixing bowl. Mix well with hands and continue using your hands to knead/massage the dough for a minute. Let the dough rest for a minute.

3. After the dough has rested, either tear off chunks or cut chunks off the dough with a clean pair of scissors. I use the latter. Keep in mind that the pieces will expand quite a bit in the broth so keep the pieces fairly small, but not too small.

4. Add the seitan pieces to the broth and gentle boil until all the pieces have doubled in size and are floating at the top. Remove the pan from heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes.

5. Remove the seitan pieces from the broth and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool and dry for a few minutes.

6. Add the dredging flour to a bowl and add the seitan pieces, lightly coating each completely with flour.

7. Add some oil to a frying pan on medium-high heat. You don't have to add a ton, just enough to be able to fry the seitan pieces on one side. You can turn each piece a few times to achieve a crispy crust on all sides. 

8. Add the seitan pieces, in batches if needed as you don't want the pieces touching each other, and fry on all sides until crispy.

9. When the wings are completely fried on all sides transfer to a paper towel-lined plate for just a minute (long enough to drain some of the outside oil). 

10. Transfer wings to a bowl and add your favorite sauce, enough to coat each wing well. If you want to have more than one kind, just make sure to add each sauce and wings to different bowls.

11. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

12. Enjoy!







Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Second Teaser from "The Box"



Hey everyone! I thought it was time for another teaser from my upcoming 4th book "The Box". Enjoy!



            “Do you need any help over here?” Olivia asked. The words were an interloper in Heidi’s memory, and she found it hard to pull herself out of that moment in the past.
            “Huh?” Heidi asked feeling dazed.
            “Were you lost in thought?” Olivia asked.
            “Yeah, I was just thinking about Sammy,” Heidi answered. It was partially the truth.
            Olivia nodded and went back to what she had been doing. Heidi watched her, making sure she was preoccupied again before heading over to the chest. This time it wasn’t locked as she flipped the latch and opened it. Her hands made the dust from the top of the crate fill the air around her and she waved her free hand in an attempt to push it away.
            The crate was standing just out of whatever sunlight streamed in through the window. As a result, the inside of the crate was filled with darkness. Heidi gave her eyes a few moments to adjust. She could see the same clothes sitting on the top and she felt transported back thirty years into the past. Heidi took the clothes out inspecting them carefully. She recognized some of them from the photos Gran had just shown her from the photo album. The green dress she had worn on her first date with Grandpa Matt.
            She grew quickly bored with looking at the old clothes as her mind pressed her to reach the bottom of the crate. She half-expected the box to not be where it was all those years ago, but it was. It was almost as if it had never moved. She felt her heart begin to race as she reached her hand down to grab it. A small spark of static electricity shocked her finger as she touched the wooden surface. She quickly withdrew her hand, but just as quickly moved it back in and picked up the box.
            It seemed smaller than she remembered as she turned it over in her hands and triggered some déjà vu. Just then Gran swooped in from her left side and swiftly grabbed the box from her hands. “You can’t have this,” she said curtly as she walked away with it.
            From Heidi’s right side, she could just see a shadow dart off to the corner.








This work is the sole copyright of this website and the author H.A. Larson. Use is strictly prohibited without express consent by the author.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Monday Edition #2

Yesterday was my Monday, and the weather was absolutely perfect again. This means, of course, that I took a hike out in the woods somewhere. This week it was Schramm State Park, technically located in Gretna, NE. It was originally established in 1882 as a fish hatchery, and, to this day, the Hatch House still stands although it is now a small museum. (You'll see the Hatch House in some of these pictures as the red building near the ponds.) Also onsite at this state park are hiking trails, a rock edifice suitable for climbing, picnic areas, a recently renovated playground, and the Ak-Sar-Ben aquarium that is free of charge to peruse. The fish in their tanks are of the native variety, and it's neat to wander through there on a lazy day. 



A view of the forest from one of the lean-to shelters in the park. There is a grouping of two that surround a couple of benches around a fire pit. 




A garter snake that I came across on the trail. I nearly stepped on him, and when I stopped in time he high-tailed it out to the safety of the forest.




Me, taking a water break.




After coming out of the top end of the trail and going down the hill, one can take a detour down these steps. They lead to the old hatchery fish ponds that still contain a variety of fish.




A view down the boardwalk that lines the hatch ponds and leads down to the Hatch House.




Another pretty shot of the Hatch House.




A view of the hatch ponds. See that coi swimming? 




I was taking a picture of my reflection in the water when I inadvertently captured a picture of a swimming snake as well. He wasn't moving very fast though, so he was probably a bit on the cold side. Still, it was cool to get a picture of it...even if accidentally.




A view on the ponds from the other direction. It's gorgeous.


So, that was my Monday, my day. Have a fantastic Tuesday!

-H.A.

Monday, March 14, 2016

March Glam Bag

It's that time of the month again. Yep, my Ipsy came in, delivered breathlessly by my daughter who looks forward to the bright pink envelope the glam bags come in every month. For those of you who haven't followed along here on my website yet, I've had a subscription to Ipsy (it's a makeup sample subscription that is pure awesome) since October of last year. I talk a bit about how it works in my first post about my first glam bag here, or you can go to Ipsy's website here to customize your own subscription. It's inexpensive and fun!



So here is the bag and it's contents! 




This is a multiplying volume mist made by Caviar. You put it on clean hair before blow-drying for volume. Considering my thin flat hair, I'm excited to try this!




This is a baked bronzer in the color heat wave, made by Be a Bombshell cosmetics. I have only worn bronzer a couple of times and have not been a fan, but I don't know, I think I'll play around with this one and see how it goes.




Model Co.'s Lip Lacquer in the color Morocco has a muted, matte almost salmon type color. It's a good color for early fall or spring. It will go perfect with some eye shades that I have, so I can't wait to wear it. We all know how much I love my lip colors! Do not fear color.




Lastly, we have a black, precision pencil eyeliner made by Starlooks. One can never have too much black eyeliner. I wear it more than any other color of liner.

The other item is NudeStix's lip and cheek pencil in the color Mystic. It's a bit darker than the Model Co. lip color I got, but would make a good base for the former. A touch of it on the cheeks and the whole look will match.



So, there's this month's Ipsy subscription. I can't wait to try out some of my new goodies. Have a fantastic day!  

-H.A.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Brewery Tour


Ever since I was old enough to legally set foot inside a bar, I've been a beer drinker. There's nothing more refreshing on a hot day than a cold beer, there just isn't. Over the years, my tastes in beer have become more refined, but I still like a Budweiser sometimes, much to my husband's chagrin. I've toured a few breweries in my time here, Budweiser (two times) in St. Louis, MO; Shiner in Shiner, TX; Boulevard in Kansas City, MO; Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland; and Lucky Bucket in La Vista, NE, to name a few.

 It was my husband's birthday recently, and I surprised him with a tour of the Brickway Brewery right here in Omaha, NE. The tour is short, but fantastic, and with your tour you get a beer of choice, the tour, a drink of whiskey (they distill spirits as well: vodka, whiskey, rum, and gin), a six-pack of their brews each, and a pint glass each. It was a bargain, and the beers were delicious. I had the Raspberry Hefeweizen, and a Chocolate Coffee Stout, both delicious. The whiskey was smooth and had nice back notes. 

It was also half-off day on growlers, so we each picked up a growler. I got the Raspberry Hef, and for our six-packs we brought home the standard Hefeweizen, and the Vanilla Coffee Stout. Good stuff. 




Classic beer cans.



More classic beer cans.








The still for the spirits.



Beer vat.















Our haul. Isn't it beautiful?  ;)



If you ever get a chance to visit Omaha, NE, check out the Brickway Brewery, located right in the heart of the Old Market.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chickpea-Cashew Vegan Cheeze Sauce

I have a confession to make: I love cheese. Simply adore it...always have. In fact, it was my love of cheese that was the hardest barrier to get over when I went vegan. Luckily for me, there are some good vegan cheeses on the market, and tons of vegan cheese recipes to be found on the internet. I really fell in love with the potato-carrot cheeze sauce (my variation can be found in the Cooking & Recipes section of this website) which is good for so many things. I also have a fondness for cashew cheeze sauce, because cashews. 

Recently, I found inspiration for making a chickpea pasta sauce and I fell in love with that too. I was craving some pasta, chickpeas, and cheeze sauce so I decided to play around with making a chickpea-cashew cheeze sauce. What I came up with was perfect and delicious, and there's no need to soak the cashews first!



The finished cheeze sauce.




The cheeze sauce lovingly embracing a bed of pasta and veggies.

Here's how I made it.



Chickpea-Cashew Vegan Cheeze Sauce


Ingredients:


1 15-oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 c. vegetable broth
1 c. water divided in half
1 c. cashews
1/2 c. nutritional yeast
1 t. each granulated garlic, granulated onion, smoked paprika, turmeric, and pepper
1 1/2 t. salt
1 T. steak seasoning
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 c. olive oil


Instructions:

1. In a saucepan, bring the chickpeas, vegetable broth, and half of the water to a boil.
2. In a blender, add all the other ingredients except the other half of the water.
3. After the chickpeas have been lightly boiling for about 7 minutes, remove from heat and let cool for a minute.
4. Add the chickpeas, including all the liquid, to the blender and puree until smooth.
5. Scrape down the sides, add the other half of the water, and puree again for about 5 minutes on a medium-low speed until smooth and creamy.


And that's it! It's that easy, and it's very delicious. Put it on your favorite pasta, burritos, lasagna, or whatever you like cheeze sauce on. Enjoy!





2015: All rights reserved. H.A. Larson - Author


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Monday Edition #1

Typically, I work 4-10 hour shifts with three days off. Work has been very busy lately (as most of you who keep up with me already know) and we've been short-staffed as well. This means we've been working a fair amount of mandatory overtime, which is nice for the paycheck but rough on days off. I'm forever grateful for my job though, so I'm not complaining, but I digress. Mondays are one of my days off, and I refuse to schedule myself any hours on that day. It's my day.

Since Monday has been my only real day off, for the most part, for the last several months, I've begun to make the most of those days. Instead of going back to sleep after getting kids/husband where they need to go, I've been staying awake and taking full advantage of my Mondays. Yesterday, it was an absolutely gorgeous day. It was nearly 80 degrees, and the sun was shining so beautifully! After getting back home from dropping everyone off, I picked up the house, did the dishes, worked on my author stuff, took a shower, and headed out to the woods. 

It was a perfect day to go hiking and since we're just coming out of Winter, it was the first time in quite awhile that I've gone hiking. When I came out of the woods I was absolutely exhausted, so I figured I must be out of shape from not hiking much lately, but then I checked my watch. What normally takes me two hours to hike, took me just a little over an hour. Which means I'm not out of shape...I'm in better shape! It was a tremendous feeling to know that I'm slowly, but surely and steadily, improving my health. Anyway, here's how my day went.  




This is one of a couple of benches out at Neale Woods, my favorite hiking spot around here. It overlooks a valley surrounded by forest, and from that bench, you can just make out the Omaha skyline. Gorgeous.




I found this little artistic creation on my way into the forest. Someone found an animal skull and made it the centerpiece of carefully placed rocks. I thought it was pretty cool so I took a photo for posterity.




Itsa me. I got my hair and outfit hiking-ready. Check out my new hiking backpack that my husband gave me for Xmas. It's so much better than my old school backpack.




This is the barn where I'm pretty sure they keep a large mower in. It's usually closed up, and I'm pretty sure this is only the second time I've seen it open. It's a cool structure that has obviously been around for a number of years.




Here I am, deep in the heart of the forest. Down in the valley, surrounded by trees and bathed in sunlight. Is there a better way to reset your batteries? I think not.




My view coming out of the forest. Just off in the distance is the Omaha skyline that I mentioned. Cool huh?




Overall, it was a wonderful day off, and I enjoyed every second of it. I rounded the day out with a visit from a friend, spending time with my family, enjoying a few good beers, and an easy meal of vegan fish & crab with french fries and some miso-sauteed veggies. 



It's back to work for me today, but I have my regular schedule this week, and I'm excited for my impending weekend off. Have a fantastic day!