Just in time for Halloween, Tea Time Thursdays gets an added layer of sweetness in the form of pumpkin chocolatey goodness. Guess where this inspiration came from? Pinterest. I have this love/hate relationship with Pinterest – the photos I pin from my own website barely get any pins, but when more popular pinners pin my photo, well, my site gets a flurry of views, but no new followers. I’m going to break this 1k follower barrier somewhere eventually! I’m looking at you, Instagram.

As I’ve mentioned previously, more pumpkin delights will be shoved in your eyeballs. Forgive my inappropriate coffee mug – I stupidly left my teacups at home, but they’ll be back in Boston with me in January. So, let’s dive right into pumpkin goodness.

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Spring rolls, also known as egg rolls, are deep-fried rolls of goodness that are often made with meat & accompanied by a sweet & sour sauce. However, the Vietnamese adapted the Chinese Spring Roll a bit differently & pair their rolls with fish sauce. Fish sauce is absolutely essential in Vietnamese cuisine & can found in nearly every recipe–even dessert, I kid you not–the way soy sauce can be found in many other Asian cuisines. Spring Rolls are not to be confused with Summer Rolls, which are also called Salad Rolls. If you’re on the Southern Hemisphere or in an area that is still experiencing summer, try a Veggie Summer Roll recipe or a Baked Cod Summer Roll. These are perfect for the trending Meatless Mondays & very filling. Cheap, efficient, fresh, what’s not to love?

But it’s not summer in Boston, so I can’t appreciate a Summer Roll in this climate as much as I would in the summer. I need something warm & in a bowl, so I made Bun Cha Gio Chay: Vietnamese Noodles with Vegan Spring Rolls. It’s a bit time consuming, but well worth it, especially when you’ve made extra spring rolls you can freeze & enjoy at a later time. This recipe is excellent for autumn – freshly boiled rice vermicelli, fresh herbs & vegetables, & deliciously hearty spring rolls. I’ve made this recipe vegan friendly, I don’t yet have a vegan fish sauce available, but you can try out Vegan Miam’s Brilliant Fish Sauce. I like that she used pineapple juice, but the key component to making a vegan fish sauce with a tang is vinegar, which wasn’t used in Rika’s recipe. I’d recommend adding vinegar, especially because fish sauce is sweet, tangy, & pungent.

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The Floridian Explorer

A fellow food blogger friend of mine, Daniela of Food Recipes HQ, said she really enjoyed seeing my travel photos–her food photography & travel photographs are also beautiful, so this is a huge compliment–& a fellow photo journal blogger buddy, Cat of Silent White, was inspired by my last Ma Belle Vie post, & made her own. I figured it was best to follow up my Mushroom Mapo Tofu recipe with another Ma Belle Vie post. For those of you who haven’t seen this before, “Ma Belle Vie” is a category of posts cataloguing my day in photographs from when I wake up until I go to bed. I forgot to take photos of our night, but I can assure you, Josh & I take dental hygiene seriously – rest assured, we did brush our teeth before sleeping, despite the lack of photographs to prove it.

Click the first photograph & use the arrows on the center left or right to navigate through our day. These photos were taken at the end of summer in August when I flew with Josh to help him settle into Florida. I’ll be back with a Vietnamese noodle recipe, wait & see!

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If you’ve never heard of this delicious Sichuan dish before, now you have & you’ve seen a picture of it. Of course my rendition of it errs on the traditional meat & tofu dish, but this is still an amazing Chinese dish, which pretty much is a party in your mouth. Probably might even make you sweat a little if you can’t handle the heat. This would not be the greatest recipe to try if you’re in, oh I don’t know, California or Florida right now–the states that completely avoided the Polar Vortex because they defy the laws of Seasons–but if you’re in any of the other 48 states with the exception of parts of Texas, this dish is right up your alley. Autumn is happening & it’s slowly getting chillier with each passing week, so if you’re one of the strange individuals who doesn’t like soup–& apparently I know about at least 3 of you–mapo tofu is a nice solution. This dish is the perfect embodiment of Sichuan cuisine with its usage of their spicy peppercorns, reminiscent to the heatwave that is hammering a drought stricken California or the ever humid Florida. So, eat up this recipe & experience the heat before venturing out to the chilly autumn wind. Even if you’re not a fan of tofu, the sauce is so distinctive in flavor that the tofu won’t even bother you one bit. Not a fan of mushrooms? We’ve already talked about this.

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There are plenty of commercials we tend to remember from our childhood due to their ostentatious or subliminal ways, but one commercial that always irked me were the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter ones. If you’ve never heard of the product, I’m sure you would’ve surmised by now that given the product’s title, it’s obviously margarine. These commercials stuck with you with sexualized hands–I honestly don’t know how they did it, but it was even obvious for 10-year-old me to understand the sexual innuendos–& this surprised husband who would eat his toast with what he thought was butter. Fast forward to today, it’s no surprise that margarine, which is made up of hydrogenated oils, is 10/10 disgustingly horrible for you. However, that doesn’t mean that the vegan butter you see at your local health foods or specialty store are margarine. Take a gander at the ingredients list & if you don’t see anything with “hydrogenated oil,” or even partially hydrogenated, you’re okay!

So, why are hydrogenated oils so bad for you? Well, you could take a general chemistry class & then an intro to organic chemistry class to fully comprehend it, but the quick & dirty explanation is simple: hydrogenating oils means adding a hydrogen molecule to a molecular structure, making it more stable at room temperature after intensive science (adding metal catalysts, intense heat & pressure being added, etc). This new molecular structure is often compared to being similar to plastic, especially because the process increases shelf-life. Unless it’s honey, food should always eventually rot. But, what does all of this mean? Not very pleasant things for your body, so avoid it at all costs.

However, that’s where some of the other alternative vegan butters come in such as Earth Balance, Nutiva, & SmartBalance. In fact, I decided to change it up from Earth Balance & tried Nutiva for my two recipes. If you’re looking for an animal friendly product, search for some of these brands in the grocery store & you can get to cooking tons of vegan-friendly food without even realizing it! These two new recipes I’ve just added are absolutely perfect for the holidays & are vegan-friendly. Now onto pictures of my fancy mashed potatoes & gravy.

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