Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year, New Plan

Happy New Year, my friends! 2013 is hard to wrap my head around. It was just 2000 a minute ago, with all the crazy stuff that was supposed to happen then. Yeah right, right? And now after all the hoo-ha over 2012 and the Mayan calendar and all that, it seems pretty clear that nobody's calendar is jumping off at the next bus stop, and we still have some living to do. I find that to be very good news.

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions, but I do enjoy the feeling of a fresh start each January, even if it's only in our imaginations. I, for one, have had just a little bit too much fun over the holidays, and spent more time in the kitchen and less time outside moving my body around than I normally do. We all do that this time of year, so there's no point beating myself up over it. It's clear though that it's time to turn off the oven, at least a couple of days a week, and lace up my running shoes again.

This year, along with getting back to my good running habit (and committing to another half marathon), I plan to create more, write more, cook more, travel more, help more, inspire more, learn more, and earn more. I want a lot, and I'm willing to work for it, although I don't really consider doing what I love to be work.

I occurred to me that this blog, which is central to my own personal balance and the hub of everything else I'm doing, can be about so much more than just food. Sure, food is important. You know I love the cooking and eating parts of my day. But as I grow more into my vegan-ness, I see how much really great stuff there is to share. Being vegan isn't only about the food. It's about a full, whole life, complete with, but not limited to, great food, beautiful clothes, exotic travels, compassionate relationships, and a whole world of inspirations to be shared. My experience in being a 50-something vegan for almost 3 years has been to feel more alive than ever before in my life. I'm making it my personal mission to help as many people as I can share that same feeling. 

My self-described job this year is to bring you as much encouragement and inspiration as I can. I want to be better than I've ever been, and I want you to be too, if you're so inclined. It's as important as ever to me that I stay on the positive side of the Vegan Fence. There's plenty of scary vegan propaganda out there, and you'll have no trouble finding it. More and more I'm letting go of the urge to evangelize (which I think my friends appreciate). If you ask me, I'll tell you all the awful facts and figures you want to hear, but I think most people "find vegan" in their own way, in their own time, and can't be badgered into it. Yes, I will admit to feeling sort of ethically and nutritionally superior to, well, almost everyone, considering the small number of vegans in this country, and I often wonder why every thinking, animal-loving, health-conscious person on the planet isn't vegan. But that doesn't make me better than anyone else. I just means I've made a connection they haven't made yet. It means I need to know when to keep my mouth shut, and to do my best to be an example someone else might want to follow. Count on me to tell you all the great things about being vegan, and to help you make your way to a healthier, happier place for yourself. 

That's it. That's my plan. How it unfolds remains to be seen. I have a whole year to figure it out and to change my mind a million times. So do you. And so here's to you, wherever you are on your own path. I positively wish you a healthy, happy, creative, abundant, joyful, delicious, compassionate 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Is Your Booze Vegan?

Here it comes - 2013. Are you ready to celebrate vegan style? The food part is relatively easy - or will get easier as you go along. Promise! But what about your favorite Tasty Adult Beverages? Over the last couple of festive weeks I've heard countless people say something like, Well at least wine is vegan! Hmmm... well... maybe... I hate to burst their bubbles - or yours, for that matter - but the truth is, not all booze is vegan. "Vegan Drinking" is sort of an advanced concept, and may not even fit in with your healthy reasons for going veg in the first place. That's fine. No judgements on either side of this fence. But if you do choose to partake in a celebratory toast or two, you might want to be aware that animal products are commonly used as filtering agents, and even as actual ingredients in some libations.

Don't panic though. First, remember that being vegan means to do the best we can, not to be perfect. There's no quicker way to kill a party than to launch into a lecture on how the wine in your friend's glass was filtered with fish bladders. Yuck. Maybe keep that info to yourself for the moment, unless you're seriously looking for a new group of vegan friends. But if you're the one doing the shopping, you can do a little research, and choose vegan friendly beverages for yourself and your fellow revelers.

Barnivore is an amazing website that can instantly tell you if your booze of choice is vegan friendly or not. You can peruse their over 10,000 entries, or simply enter the name of your favorite wine, beer, or whatever in the "find booze" search box. They don't have a mobile app yet, so be sure to do your research at home before you head to the liquor store.

Another way to check on your favorite tasty bevs is offered over at the VegNews site. There you'll find a Wine Guide, as well as a Beer Guide. These lists are not as extensive as Barnivore's, but they're good for a quick glance that will show some familiar and easy to find vegan friendly refreshments.

I'm pleased as punch to learn that our favorite New Mexico winery, Gruet, is indeed on the veg-friendly team. We'll be stocking up on some of their lovely bubbly, and raising a glass to a happy, healthy, compassionate 2013 for us all. Cheers!

Friday, December 21, 2012


Greetings of the Season to you all. It appears that the world did not end, or if it did, I've somehow missed it or been left behind. That means I can go on with my family Christmas plans, which pleases me ever so much. I've finished my volunteer time (for now), and have lots to do before everyone arrives here tomorrow. As my daughter once said, when she was very young, and was jumping on her bed, beside herself with glee over something fun that was about to happen, "I'm so excited! So am I!"

I imagine most of you are busy creating your own holiday magic, so you won't mind if I take a few days away from you here. I'll be back soon with lots of food and encouragement for your New Year's vegan adventures. Here's wishing you the happiest, healthiest, most compassionate of holidays. I'm so looking forward to whatever comes next!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


I'm not getting a lot of cooking done this week. My cookies are baked, my holiday menu is planned, and I'm excited about the visitors we have coming in this weekend. But this week is also one of my favorite weeks of the year, and an important part of the season for me. It's Taos Feeds Taos week, and I'm working hard to help see that over 1,100 families in my community will have a Christmas dinner. No, it's not a vegan venture. That would be a Christmas Miracle for sure. I feel so fortunate to have the choice to be vegan, and I realize not everyone does. So many people just want something to eat, and I feel it's part of my life's mission to help get them fed. Taos Feeds Taos does an amazing job, and I'm proud to be a part of it (even though I bring my own lunch on the days they're kind enough to feed the volunteers.)

I love volunteer work. I've gone as far away as Ethiopia on volunteer status, and I have to say it doesn't matter where you do it - it always feels good to do good. And I urge you to give it a try for yourself. No doubt you know of someplace in your own town that could use a few extra hands. Maybe you've even said to yourself, I should go volunteer this year. Well do it! You'll love it. And best of all, the love you'll get back is much greater than anything you'll give. Here's my secret - I do this more for me than for anyone else. It makes me feel so embarrassingly good. And when we pour that happy energy out of our very bones, it wanders out and gets on other people and does all kinds of magical energy shifting, and truly does make the world a better place. That's where the real work gets done.

If you don't know where to start, check around locally. A quick web search for "volunteer 'your town'"should turn up all kinds of good stuff. Or plug yourself into this site - Volunteer Match. You might find something that really interests you.

And now, I'm off into a snow storm. Today we have a mountain of food to be moved into 1,100+ boxes so it's ready for people to pick it up tomorrow and Friday. Sure, my back might be tired by the end of the week, but the number of hugs and blessings I'll get will keep me going strong. And then, once my kids get here, I'll get to calm down a little bit and feed my own family. This is what I'm here for. What a wonderful life.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mini Meatloaves

We have family coming for Christmas, and of course I want to make a feast they'll remember - in a good way. These fine folks are all omnis on their own time, and they know they'll be fed vegan-style here. I don't know if they're dreading it in any way. I hope not. But my plan is to absolutely wow them with everything I cook. I decided to test two recipes last night, for sort of a preview feast. I actually considered making both of these for our Christmas dinner, but quickly realized I'd better narrow it down to one. The question was, which one? These are both beautiful, and both delicious, but the real deciding factor had to be, Which one would meat eaters prefer? Two bites into our sampler plates, Rick and I looked up at the same time and said, Meatloaf! You know it's not meat-meatloaf, right? Duh. This one is a crowd pleaser.

The runner up is Risi Bisi, from the wonderful Graham Kerr. You think of him as the mostly-meat Galloping Gourmet, right? Well he's changed his tune, and is now promoting a plant based diet! How about that? More on Graham in an upcoming post. For now, sample this recipe for yourself. You'll only need to modify it a little bit to take it from vegetarian to vegan. I used nutritional yeast instead of the parmesan cheese, and kale instead of arugula. It's beautiful and delicious!

While I love the look of the fancy Risi Bisi, the meatloaf won out for me because I wanted to serve up heaping plates of familiar looking comfort food. I want mashed potatoes and gravy and cranberries and vegetables, and I think everyone will love it. This meatloaf comes from Everyday Happy Herbivore. I changed it only a little bit, and then baked it as little individual loaves in a muffin tin, with the addition of a baked-in glaze. It's so good you don't really need the gravy, but we're having it anyway. (Here's the gravy recipe. Sub water for the oil to make it lower fat, and every bit as good.)

Tempeh Meatloaf
makes 6 muffin-loaves

1 (8 oz.) package tempeh, grated
1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
2 T nutritional yeast
2 T ground flax seeds
1 T herbs de provence
1/4 cup ketchup
2 T dijon mustard

Mix everything together well, with a spoon and your hands.
Season to taste (yes, you can taste it because it isn't meat).
Allow to rest 5-10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350º, and lightly oil a muffin tin.

For the glaze, Mix 1 T each ketchup, tamari, and maple syrup.
Place 1 1/2 tsp of glaze in the bottom of 6 muffin cups of the oiled muffin tin.
Gently press about 1/3 cup of the meatloaf mixture into the muffin cups.
Bake at 350º for about 30 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes, then gently loosen the edges of the loaves and carefully turn onto a plate or cutting board.
Serve with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, or anything else that makes your heart sing. I love this with a side of homemade cranberries.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jam Filled Thumbprint Cookies

I mentioned this recipe last holiday season, but gave you sort of a wonky rendition, with a link to the original. When I went back to make these the other day, I found it a pretty unworkable recipe mish-mash, so I decided to nail it down to what really works, and share it with you again. I love an easy to follow recipe, don't you? These little jammy nuggets are just delightful, during the holidays, or any old time of year. (Here's my original post, which includes the recipe I adapted to get to this version.)

Jam Filled Thumbprint Cookies
makes about 3 dozen cookies

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup (1 stick) Earth Balance "butter"
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raw almonds
4 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup agave syrup
jam - any kind you like

Prepare 2 (maybe 3) cookie sheets by lightly oiling, or lining with parchment or non-stick silicone matts.
Melt the coconut oil and butter together over low heat. Set aside.
Coarsely chop the walnuts and almonds in a food processor, and place them in a large mixing bowl.
Next buzz up the oats in the food processor, just for a couple of seconds. You want them sort of coarse, not like flour.
Add the oats to your mixing bowl with the nuts.
Stir in the flour and salt.
Stir in the melted oil/butter and the agave syrup. Mix well.
Let the mixture rest 10-15 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 350º.

Form tablespoon-size balls with the dough, and place them on the prepared cookie sheets.
Shape a little crater in the center of each, either with your thumb, or the back of a small spoon.
Press the edges of the cookies back into shape if they split.
Fill the cookie craters with a bit of jam.
Bake at 350º for about 15 minutes. The bottoms will be a nice golden brown.
Allow the cookies to cool a few minutes before removing from the pans.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Raw Goodness

Hmmm, maybe the Universe is trying to get me to eat more raw food... Here's another sweet, free offer, this time from Karen Knower - 12 days of free raw recipes, e-books, and more. I've signed up for it. Care to join me? You might as well. It's FREE! Visit the Deliciously Decadent 12 Days of Raw Christmas. 

And tomorrow... I have cookies for you, hot from the oven! I want to know more about raw food, and I want to add more of it to my diet, but I still love the smell of cookies baking. Carry on!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Grab this deal quick!

Just popping in to let you now about some great information on raw food. Steve Prussack is offering his Raw Vegan Interviews with the Masters program for FREE! But the deal ends tomorrow, so better scoot on over there! You'll see the secret code there after you click on the BUY button. Be sure to use it! BTW, I did get permission to share the link, so enjoy!

Baked Hummus

Here's a quick and easy appetizer you can toss together on short notice. If you're like me, you almost always have a vat of hummus in the fridge. If not,  you can whip some up in no time. It's well worth the effort to make your own. In a real pinch, buy some hummus at the store. Nobody will judge you. I made this on a whim the other night, just to see if it would be any good. We finished every bit of it, and we ended up calling it dinner. The hot hummus has a cheesy richness that's oh so satisfying. Mmmmm...

Baked Hummus

Start with an oven proof dish of the appropriate size for the group you'll be feeding. A shallow dish is better than a deep one, because you want a bit of the topping with each scoop. Individual ramekins are nice, and a pie plate works well for larger amounts.

Preheat the oven to 350º.
Fill your baking dish with about a 2 inch layer of hummus.
Top the hummus with coarsely chopped un-toasted pine nuts.
Bake at 350º for about 30 minutes, until the pine nuts are lightly toasted. (Keep an eye on it. Pine nuts burn easily.)
Serve with bread or crackers, olives, fresh or sun-dried tomatoes, and spicy pepperoncini. Oh yeah!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Instant Dog Sweater

It was cold and snowy yesterday, and while I was looking for sweaters to bundle up in, I found several that were just too old and hideous to wear any longer. Some were even cashmere, from my pre-vegan days, and even though I've worn them into holey rags, it felt wrong to throw them away. Then I noticed the two little shivering dogs huddled up on my bed, and thought, Aha! I know what to do! Ten minutes later we had four new dog sweaters, made from the sleeves of my old sweaters. This is my kind of project, because there's no sewing at all. And the dogs like these better than some of the bulkier sweaters I've knitted for them, because they're slim and sleek and add a layer of warmth while keeping them looking sexy too.

What makes these vegan? Well, to many of us, being vegan isn't just about food. It's also about being as green as possible - in the environmental way, not the eat-your-kale way, although you know that's important too. Using things to their very last bit of usefulness is something we all need to get better at, no matter what our diet may be. And to me, repurposing a beloved cashmere sweater extends its life, thereby honoring the animal the yarn came from. I avoid buying animal products of any kind now, but I don't throw out things I already have. That would be disrespectful.

Heidi looks so good in black.
To make a sweater or two for your own little friend, simply cut the sleeve(s) off of an old sweater. I think a sweatshirt sleeve would work well too. The cuff will become the neck of the dog sweater. You can either follow the shoulder seam when you cut, or just go straight across. Better to start too long. you can always take more off later for a smaller dog. 

Now turn the sleeve so the underarm seam is centered on what will be the tummy-side of the dog sweater.

Measure about 8 inches from the edge of the cuff, along the side crease, and make a little chalk mark or small snip with your scissors. Make another mark 2-3 inches below the first mark (toward the shoulder of the sleeve), depending on the size of your dog's shoulders. These will be the leg openings. Heidi the dachshund needs about a 2 1/2 inch opening, while Chia the chihuahua needs a smaller leg hole. Start smaller than you think will fit. You can easily make the openings a little bigger if they're too tight.

Once you've cut the leg openings, you're done. Have your dog try it on for size, and adjust the length or leg holes as needed. A long cuff will fold over into a jaunty turtleneck. Very stylish, yes? 

Chia is camera shy, but he looks so hip in his grey turtleneck.
Now what to do with the remainder of the old sweater? One of these was so bad it went to the rag bag to become a dust cloth. But the black one, which was all frumpy and saggy in the shoulders, suddenly took on a new shape once I'd cut the sleeves off. I trimmed the sleeve edge a little closer to the shoulder seam, de-pilled it a bit, and it became a cute vest, suitable for workday wear. How green can you get? I found myself wanting to cut up perfectly good sweaters so the dogs and I could have more spiffy new duds, but I restrained myself. Maybe a trip to the thrift store is in order though...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Stand Up

Do you remember my recipe for Chocolate Black Bean Cupcakes? No? If you're new around here, go back and take a look at these little beauties. They're my favorite little cakes to bake, because they taste just like "real" chocolate cake, and because they're so good for you. Ingredients like black beans and prunes aren't normally found in cupcakes, but don't be afraid! These are really quite delightful. I recently made them for our daughter's birthday, with some super-naughty orange buttercream frosting, and topped them with little organic gummy bears - not because she's a little kid (she has a little kid), but because I'm currently quite smitten with gummy bears myself. Then the cakes were so darn cute they needed an appropriately cute presentation. So I pulled a bunch of colorful dishes out of the cupboard, stacked them up, and ta-da!, we have the cutest darn cake stand ever. I stacked them so all the lips and notches nestled together, making it a lot sturdier than you might think. Do try this at home.

Make the cupcakes.
And then the
Orange Buttercream Frosting

1 stick Earth Balance "butter" - softened to room temperature in your mixing bowl
1 pound organic powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp orange extract
1 T Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
almond milk

Add powdered sugar to softened "butter," along with the salt, orange extract, and Grand Marnier.
Mix with a hand mixer, adding almond milk very gradually - just a few drops at a time - until the frosting is smooth and spreadable. This amount will be too much for one batch of cupcakes, so either make a double batch of cakes, or refrigerate or freeze the extra frosting for future cake embellishing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins

I had several small pumpkins from the farmers market that I had been using as decoration for Thanksgiving. They were starting to get a little soft, so it was time to bake them and use them... for something. I found a promising looking recipe on Hell Yeah It's Vegan for pumpkin bread, and thought I'd see what I could do with it. I made one batch exactly by the recipe, and baked it as a loaf. Good. Hell Yeah. But you know how I feel about oil, so I started mixing again, this time leaving out the oil and simply subbing extra pumpkin for the oil. I baked this batch as muffins, and then called in my taste testers, who are always so wonderfully willing to help me out. The muffins were a little bit more dense than the loaf, but they tasted almost exactly the same, except for the rather oily undertone I noticed in the loaf. I know it's largely my palate that picks up (and doesn't love) oil in foods. I'm so used to not having it, it no longer makes my mouth happy. But I think some people might prefer the more traditional mouth feel of a bit of oil in their muffins. For the original recipe, click here. For my version, read on.

Pumpkin Muffins

1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 T pumpkin pie spice

1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée (canned or cooked from scratch)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°.
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
Stir wet ingredients into dry, just until blended.
Spoon batter into a lined or lightly oiled muffin tin.
Bake at 350° for 40-50 minutes, or until the tops are browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Green of Mushroom Soup

I know it's a weird sounding name, but it's exactly what it is, green, and mushroomy - and really, really good. I don't know about you, but around here, if I make a pot of amazing soup, and offer salad to go with it, nobody ever wants the salad. I'm determined to get those wonderful dark, leafy greens into us somehow, so adding them to the soup makes sense.

I will admit that this recipe is a little bit mess-intensive, and I apologize for that. Make it with friends, and have them help with the cleanup as you go along. It's well worth washing an extra pot and a blender.

Green of Mushroom Soup

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms, chopped
4 cups kale, finely shredded
4 cups vegetable or mushroom broth
1 T wakame (seaweed)
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup low sodium tamari
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup miso

Sauté onion and garlic in a little water, over medium-high heat, for about 5 minutes.
Add kale and mushrooms, and cook about 5 minutes more.
Add the broth, wakame, cashews, tamari, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer about 10 minutes, to soften the wakame and cashews.

Add the milk, then blend, in 3-4 batches, in a blender on highest speed, for about 1 minute per batch, until it's nice and smooth. Add the miso to the first batch to blend it in well. Pour all the blended soup into another large pot or bowl while you empty and blend the first potful.
Rewarm the blended soup to a good steamy simmer, but don't boil it. Serve with a garnish of thinly sliced mushrooms and chopped cashews.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Vegan Cuts Snack Box

Have you been to Vegan Cuts yet? It's a fun site full of special deals on all things vegan. They also have something called the Vegan Cuts Snack Box, which is a monthly subscription to a fun box of goodies. I though it would be a good idea to review the contents of one such box for you here, so I signed up and got my first box the other day. Rick and I had a great time testing all the goodies. Here's what was inside...

Let's start with the Seasnax. I've had seaweed snacks before, and these were good. They're super thin, and a brilliant green, and although they use oil in them, it seems to be a better quality oil than some I've tried. Fold them or roll them for more crunch and less sticking to the roof of your mouth.

The Simply Bar looked so promising, but in all honesty, neither of us liked it, and we gave most of it to Lucy... The bar looked sort of like a chocolaty Rice Crispy Treat, but it was very dry, not at all sweet, and the flavors of chocolate and peanut butter did not come across at all. OK, sure, it's a protein bar, not a cookie, but I know it's possible to make good food taste good too. This one missed the mark as far as I'm concerned.

The Delights Brownie was small and moist and delicious, even though it didn't taste anything like a brownie. It was a yummy little raw fruit treat, and Lucy didn't even get a crumb. Sorry Lucy.

I'll admit it. I like gummy bears. I recently discovered the bin of organic gummies at our local market, and I just have to make myself stay far, far away from that part of the store, which is hard because it's right next to the produce section. The Surf Sweets Sour Berry Bears were every bit as good as the bears-in-the-bin, and because they came in a little single serving pack (which I sort of shared with Rick) there was little danger of overindulging. I like them. I want more.

Next up is the Kelapo Virgin Coconut Oil. I haven't used it yet, but I know I like coconut oil for certain things, so I imagine this one is very nice. There's a lot of controversy around coconut oil, so I use it sometimes, but I don't drown our food in it like I did in my vegan beginnings. This cute little packet would be perfect to take along to the hot springs, to use as an after soak skin lotion. Ever tried that? It's wonderful.

From Simply Straws, we have a 6" glass drinking straw. Great for the environment if you're big on using straws in your drinks, and because it's made of borosilicate glass (like Pyrex), it's very sturdy and resistant to heat and cold and breaking. I put it in the cabinet with the barware, next to the shot glasses and fancy olive picks. Mine is clear, so not all that photogenic, but they come in colors too. I like that.

In my opinion, laundry soap doesn't really belong in a snack box. But guess what? This Berry Plus sample is one of the coolest things in the bunch. This magical laundry elixir is made from soapberries, and all it takes to clean a big load of laundry is a teensy little "microdose," like only a teaspoon or so. I did a load today, and it came out clean and fresh smelling, but not at all perfumey. This would be really great for RV travelers, or anyone else who has super minimal storage space. And besides, with Berry Plus, you don't have a huge bottle or box of soap to wrangle and dispose of. The price is reasonable too. If you want the tiny single shot ampules, you get 20 loads worth for $16. Or go for the biggest bulk bottle at 80 loads for $20. Kind of makes me want to throw in another load of laundry.

And that's it for the snack box. It was fun from our end. Did you enjoy it or find it useful? I might do it again, or I might just start hunting down my own nifty vegan products to review. Any suggestions? You know I love to shop!