(Super Belated) Report on the 2012 Boston Vegetarian Food Festival

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The Boston Vegetarian Food Festival was October 27th-28th at the Reggie Lewis Center at the Roxbury Community College.  Amy, the magical shoe fairy who works at Sudo Shoes in Cambridge, gave me the hot tip that it was going to be super crowded, so she suggested to come early and come on Saturday if we actually wanted to taste any of the free food.

You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be and I don’t want to go home right now.

John and I bought the early admission pass ($5 a person) which allowed us to enter the convention area a whole hour ahead of the plebs.  It was worth all 500 pennies.  We made a meal out of all the delicious samples.  There were treats from some of our favorite vendors such as Veggie Galaxy and Gardein

I got yer steak tipses right here, kid.

…and new things we hadn’t heard of but now purchase regularly like Viana’s Mediterranean Sausage and May Wah mock meats, Chinese style

We made “pork” fried rice with these and I was instantly transported back to Sunday nights watching Star Trek: TNG, eating take-out with my dad.

It was crowded after our magic hour was over, but we had already raced through and picked up a ton of samples like we were on an episode of Supermarket Sweep.

What was really nice about this event was that you actually got to talk to a lot of the proprietors of the companies presenting there.  Many veg companies are small or even start ups (such as Makoma’s juices, a delicious baobab fruit juice company who are trying to get their product carried in local stores) and want to take the time to grab your attention since every consumer counts (only about 3.2% of the US population identifies as vegetarian, and 0.5% as vegan).

Hands down the best vegan soft-serve I’ve ever had. I’d chase this truck for blocks for a cone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got to speak to the passionate husband-wife team that runs FoMu vegan ice cream in Allston, the sweet ice cream truck lady who runs Like No Udder in Providence (I am going to chase this ice cream truck down next year like an 8 year old but with a car, and yes we had ice cream for lunch that day), and one of the volunteers from NEAVS (the New England Anti-Vivisection Society).

It was a great time, and I hope that next year I can convince a few veg-curious or even just folks looking to try something new to tag along.  It’s worth battling the crowds.  I mean, look at our haul!

An Herbivore’s Smorgasbord.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Biscuits

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On blustery winter weekends I love to have hot breakfasts–oatmeal, quickbreads, tofu scrambles with veggie bacon, and…biscuits!


When it comes to perfecting a standard, I look no further than the wisdom of chef/TV personality Alton Brown.  Sure, his recipes are not vegan, but the science behind why he does what he does is so well explained, you can see what you can (and what you cannot) substitute.  As a former scientist myself (once upon a time I was a physicist, weird, right?) I can tinker and play with the ingredients that have some flexibility, and keep true to the chemical reactions needed to make the food exist in its best possible (vegan) state.

Today, I made the platonic ideal of a biscuit.  I even did that thing they do in commercials where I held a plate of fresh hot biscuits under John’s nose while he was sleeping and woke him up with the warm bready smell.  This veganized version of AB’s recipe came out so flaky and delicious I couldn’t believe it was as easy as it was.

This is one of those recipes perfect for mornings where you’re half asleep and don’t quite have your baking mojo going yet. Enjoy!

Vegan Southern Biscuits

(adapted from Alton Brown’s Southern Biscuits recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder (make sure it’s fresh and a good quality brand, this is where the acid and thus the puffiness comes from)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance, cold
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup soy creamer, chilled

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub Earth Balance and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don’t want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled soy creamer. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough [Note: I don’t have a biscuit cutter (HELLO UNITASKER) so I used a glass cup that was about two inches in diameter]. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. [AB’s Note: Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that’s life.]

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes. [I find that when cooking with vegan butter, less time is usually better. Check them at 10 minutes.  They will probably be done by 15.]

Serve with more Earth Balance, fruit preserves, or Choc and Nut spread!

Thanksgiving Live Blog!

8 AM – I’m up and ready to go. First things first: There is a dark, cold pit in my stomach. And no, it’s not that I’ve not had any coffee yet. I have to do the thing I thought I’d prepared enough to avoid…I have to GO TO THE STORE ON THE WEDNESDAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING. I got home after doing the Thanksgiving shopping only to discover that we don’t have any banana peppers for our Thanksgiving eve pizzas Jules: You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France? Brett: No. Jules: Tell 'em, Vincent. Vincent: A Royale with cheese. (and since I’m a worrier, I’m also thinking that 1 bag of flour might not be enough). Coffee and then off to the supermarket!

(One of the things I must make today are three pizza doughs. One of the pizzas we plan on making for John’s parents is my BBQ Burger Pizza, and I’ve discovered that something similar is now being made by the good folks at Peace O’ Pie and called “The Royale.”)

9:33 AM – Just got back from Stop and Shop. It was relatively peaceful, except that only two cashiers were working. Also, apparently 8:30 AM is the time where the supermarket becomes a race track for little old ladies. There were blue-haired power walkers doing laps! I’m back home now, with banana peppers and more flour, ready to roll. Eliot has jumped up in my chair to help me blog about it. (He does this pretty much any time I’m trying to do something on the computer).
The first thing I am going to make is a modified version of Oh She Glows’ butternut squash Mac and cheese. I am going to use Cavatappi because it is the most fun shape for fancy mac n’ cheese.

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11:10 AM – Mac n’ Cheeze is in the oven.  I tasted some of the pasta in the cheese sauce and it reminded me of something….then I realized it tasted a lot like those Snyder’s Honey Mustard pretzel bites.  I love those things!  If you like them too, make this sauce with Dijon mustard for your pasta.  If you don’t like mustard, leave it out.  Here’s my version of the Oh She Glows recipe with picture how-tos!

Butternut, Kale and Pumpkin Mac and “Cheese”

(serves 8)

Ingredients:

  • 1 half of a butternut squash (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • olive oil, salt, pepper
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp) Earth Balance
  • 1.5 cups soy creamer
  • 2 tbsp. arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
  • 3/4 cup nutritional yeast, or more to taste
  • 4 tsp Dijon mustard (less if you don’t like mustard, or none at all)
  • 1 tbsp. brown miso paste
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 lb. box Cavatappi pasta (or another fun shape that will hold sauce, like spirals)
  • 1 colander full of kale (or spinach, collards, etc.), rinsed and torn into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage

1. Preheat oven to 425F.  In a glass baking dish, coat chopped butternut with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes, uncovered, or until tender.

2. While that is roasting, make that sauce! Add Earth Balance over medium heat and make it melty. In a bowl, whisk together creamer and arrowroot powder, then add to pot and whisk again. Reduce heat to low. Stir in dijon mustard, garlic and onion powder, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, miso and pumpkin puree. Heat until nice and thick.

3. Cook your pasta according to package directions, drain and put back into the pot. Butter a large glass baking dish (to prevent the mac from sticking).

4. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender), blend the sauce with the butternut squash. Add the fresh chopped sage.

5. Add the cheese sauce and the kale to the pasta and combine well.

6. Pour the pasta mixture into the baking dish, cover with panko, and cook on 375 for 20-30 minutes or until the panko is golden brown and delicious.  Serve with salt and pepper to taste.

11:45 AM – Time to make three pizza doughs (2 regular, 1 wheat) for Pizzasgiving tonight. 

Also, time to assemble the artichoke dip so that it can be baked upon arrival at my parents house.  Here is the recipe I’m using for the dip, from C’est La Vegan.

The main departure I make from this recipe is that instead of 1 clove of garlic, I use 6.

12:36 PM – Dip is done, doughs are done, next on the list is the apple galette with caramel sauce.  I think I might have a lunch break first, though.  Go figure, all this food is making me hungry!  Think I’ll have a kale and avocado salad.  It’s the most trite vegan hippie food ever but it’s also delicious and we are about to go into a feast day where all the food is tan or brown and very rich.

2:31 PM – Lunch was tasty, and Wayne’s World was on.  Bonus. I prepped apples and the dough before sitting down to eat.

The galette is now in the oven and the apple glaze topping is simmering on the stove.  Here’s the recipe I adapted from the Smitten Kitchen (who adapted it from Alice Waters):

Vegan Apple Galette

Dough:
1 cup (125 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick or 85 grams) Earth Balance, cold
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 ml) chilled water

Filling:
2 pounds (910 grams) apples (Granny Smiths are what I used, but any tart apple will do) peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced
2 tablespoons (30 grams) Earth Balance, melted
5 tablespoons (65 grams) sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon

Glaze:
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar

MIX flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Work the cold butter with your fingers and a fork until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter; mix until biggest pieces are no bigger than large peas.

DRIBBLE in water one tablespoon at a time, working it in gently with your hands. A soft dough should easily form, don’t overwork it. Flatten into disk about 4 inches wide and place on a plate in the freezer (yes the freezer–I heard this tip from the Pioneer Woman on Food Network’s Thanksgiving Live). After at least 30 minutes, remove; let soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Smooth cracks at edges. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Brush off excess flour with your fingertips.

PLACE dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart or pie pan.  Heat oven to 400°F.

OVERLAP apples on dough in a ring  up to the sides, starting on the outside and working your way inward. Continue inward until you reach the center. Tuck excess apples into places that look sparsely populated. Fold any dough hanging over pan back onto itself; crimp edges.

BRUSH melted Earth Balance over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over dough edge and the other 3 tablespoons and a dusting of cinnamon (1 tsp) over apples.

BAKE in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 35 minutes), making sure to rotate tart twice during the baking time.

MAKE glaze: Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup through cheesecloth or mesh colander.

REMOVE tart from oven. Let cool at least 15 minutes.

BRUSH glaze over tart, slice, and serve.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I wasn’t totally satisfied with the tart as is as a decadent Thanksgiving treat to make the omnivores drool, so I glazed the top a little more with my homemade salted caramel sauce…

The recipe for that is sadly for another show.  However, this recipe from Domestocrat is what inspired my caramels.  I took her recipe and method and left out the cider, used soy creamer in place of heavy cream, Earth Balance in place of butter, and brown rice syrup instead of Lyle’s golden syrup. I also added the Earth Balance last–after all the cooking was done–as it tends to make a burning oil smell when overheated.  I sprinkled the top with black lava sea salt.

2:50 PM – The tart is finishing up and I’m in the home stretch.  Don’t think I’ll get to clean the house like I wanted to before we leave, but maybe I can sucker kindly coerce the husband and his brother to take out the trash and the recycling.  It’s time to make gravy for our Field Roast Hazelnut Cranberry Roast en Croute!

Rejoice in our wheat meat, lord and savior of vegans!

4:20 – John’s brother Ben just arrived from Florida earlier than expected, so we’re now on an accelerated time frame to get down to Rhode Island.  Thankfully, I finished the dijon-mushroom gravy for the Field Roast.  Unfortunately, it means I have to type it up fast so…here we go!

Dijon-Mushroom Gravy

1 onion, chopped

1 shallot, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

salt and pepper

1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced

2 tbsp. Earth Balance

3 cups vegetable broth

splash of sweet vermouth

1 tbsp. dijon mustard

1 tbsp. fresh thyme

SAUTE the onions, garlic and shallots in the butter on medium heat.   Season with salt and pepper.  Add the mushrooms and heat until soft and fragrant, stirring often. (about 10 minutes)

ADD the vegetable broth, the thyme and the sweet vermouth. Turn up the heat to medium high and let simmer and reduce by half.

PUREE using a stick blender or blender.  Add the dijon mustard.  It will be thick.  Serve with any dry roasts–also would make a good sauce for pasta or rice. Note: this is a flourless gravy, so I guess it’s more of a sauce.

And that’s it!  I live blogged my prep like it was my job (on my day off).  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you out there who dared to read my grand experiment, and thank you.  I’m thankful that I was able to make such a bountiful feast without any animal products.

I’m thankful that I have a great family, great husband, great cats, great friends, and great jobs. I am thankful that it’s the holiday season, where we all get to see each other a little more often.

What are you thankful for?

Time To Make the (Vegan) Donuts

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I’m back!  I know I haven’t posted in a while–I have been working on a big recording project for work (it involves ProTools, Autotune, and a song about electronic addiction).  Since it’s Thanksgiving week and there is no school, I’m hoping to get caught up as I have a backlog of photos of delicious things, plus a series on the making of my Halloween costume, that I really would like to share with you.

I made a series of bad decisions this past week that lead to three dozen delicious donuts sitting on my kitchen table last night.

  • Bad decision #1: I scheduled a haircut right after work, with little time to get something to eat.
  • Bad decision #2: I tried to get a burrito at Chipotle at peak lunch time. The line was all the way through the parking lot.
  • Bad decision #3: I decided to try the mall food court instead. (Note: Spike’s Hot Dogs had the only vegan option, whut?)
  • Bad decision #4: On my way to the food court, I walked by Sur La Table on an empty stomach and impulse bought a doughnut pan.

As I am a New Englander, since fall began I’ve been bombarded by images from Dunkin’ Donuts of bright orange and yellow pumpkin flavored sugar bombs and gosh darn it, I wanted one!  But their donuts are made with murdereggs.  Plus, lots of other scary things.  They actually list their ingredients online–look at all this unpronounceable crap!

INGREDIENTS: Donut: Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Enzyme, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Palm Oil, Sugar, Whey (a milk derivative), Water, Soybean Oil, Egg Yolks, Contains less than 2% of the following: Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Pumpkin, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Defatted Soy Flour, Cinnamon, Salt, Spices, Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Enzyme Modified Egg Yolks, Soy Lecithin, Skim Milk, Konjac Flour, Yellow 6, Caramel Color, Carrageenan; Glaze: Sugar, Water, Maltodextrin, Contains 2% or less of: Propylene Glycol, Mono and Diglycerides (Emulsifier), Cellulose Gum, Agar, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Vanillin (an Artificial Flavor).

[What is Konjac Flour anyway?  How can there be a flour I’ve never heard of?  I watch the Food Network!]

So, wanting a donut without all the garbage (just some of it), I veganized it.  Here’s my recipe for vegan frosted pumpkin donuts:

(That's what I was going for.)

Dry Team:

1.25 cups Cake Flour (you can probably use AP if you don’t have cake flour)

1/2 cup sugar

1.5 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. salt

Wet Team:

1/2 cup of canned pureed pumpkin

1.5 tsp. egg replacer prepared with 2 tbsp. warm water in a small bowl

1/3 cup non-dairy milk (I used vanilla almond milk)

1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

4 tbsp. Earth Balance, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350, spray doughnut pan with cooking spray.

2.  Combine all the dry ingredients.

3. Combine all the wet ingredients.

4. Combine dry and wet teams together.  Texture should be pourable but just barely.  If too runny, add more flour.  Pour into the pan, filling each mold completely and taking care to wipe batter off the middle where the hole will be. Bake for 12 minutes, then allow to cool on a wire rack or cookie sheet while you assemble the frosting.

Easy Donut Frosting:

2 cups confectioners sugar (if you can’t find vegan confectioners sugar, pulse vegan sugar in a food processor until fine)

2 tbsp non-dairy milk

1 tsp vanilla

Beat all ingredients until smooth.  You can play with the texture by adding more sugar or milk if you like a thicker frosting or more icing-like frosting.

I used a rubber spatula to frost the tops, but drizzling with a spoon would probably work well too.  I found some fun sprinkles at Sur La Table and those were added to up the festive factor.
I also made an Apple Cider Donut variation, if you’re interested.  The instructions are basically the same, just replace the pumpkin puree with 1 and a half cups of apple cider that’s been boiled down to about 1/3 a cup (took me about 20 minutes on high heat).  I rolled them around in sugar and cinnamon while they were still a little warm (but not hot–the sugar will just melt).

Let's go down to the old mill and get some cider!

What I loved the most about making these donuts with the pan was how simple it was.  If you can bake a cookie, you can bake a donut.  They don’t have the spongy porous texture of the fried variety, but they deliver the sugar coma that you crave.

Tomorrow I’m going to try and live blog my Thanksgiving prep!  Since John and I are going to our parents’ houses in Rhode Island and Connecticut for Thanksgiving, and we are the only vegans, we’re making a cooler of food and hitting the road.  Have Tofurky, will travel.  Tune in tomorrow to watch me lose my damned mind in real time!

Frozen Naners!

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This weekend was a busy one. I had 50 midterms to grade, a short movie to write for the National Film Challenge, and a Patriots game to tailgate. Sometime in the future I’ll share my thoughts on vegan tailgating, but since I just finished grading, I’ll give you a quick recipe for a treat John and I devoured tonight.
I hate wasting food, and a recent article I read in Whole Living magazine cited that Americans make an average of about 1.28 pounds of daily food waste, equal to 14 percent of the family’s food purchases.  However, when life is busy, fruits and veggies can go past their prime without you realizing it.  How many times have you looked over at the fruit bin and thought, “I’ll have a banana tomorrow; those need to get eaten.” A few days later, you have some funky bananas.

Don’t despair, little naner!  You can become a delicious treat!  As long as the banana isn’t so funky it’s rotten (so long as it’s just overripe) you can freeze it.  Overripe bananas have a high sugar content, making them perfect in a cold application (as cold numbs your ability to taste sweetness). And so, tonight we made:

Frozen Naner Delight!

2-3 overripe bananas, frozen (I used two massive naners)
1/2 cup of almond or soy milk
1/2 cup peanut butter (we like a lot of peanut butter, you can use less if you like)
Roasted peanuts and chocolate sauce for toppings

Put the bananas and the almond milk in the blender and pulse on ice crush setting until bananas are broken up and creamy. Add the peanut butter and blend on low until mixed. Pour or scoop into glasses and garnish with peanuts and chocolate syrup. Serves two super busy vegans craving a sweet treat.

The First Rule of Socializing with Non-Vegans: ABF

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My friends Will and Gina invited us over for a “football and crafts” get together. We’d watch some football, crochet, knit, embroider, and eat some tasty food. (Bad hipster that I am, I don’t know a thing about hobbies that involve pointy sticks and yarn, so I opted for the football watching and eating part.) They are gracious and hospitable hosts, putting out a great spread of cheese and crackers, brownies and some tasty craft beers. Wanting to make sure we had something to eat at this shindig, I applied the first and golden rule of socializing with non-vegans: ABF (Always Bring Food).

This lasagna was made with love and lead, apparently. It weighed 20 pounds. How can a vegan lasagna be so dense?

Some vegans might go empty handed to a social gathering, then, when asked why they’re not eating, shrug their hunched bony shoulders and say “there’s nothing here for me.”  They follow this with a heavy sigh and eyes that tilt towards the heavens like a martyr.  Though it might seem like the staunchly principled thing to do, if you do this and you’re a vegan, you’re being a bad guest.

“I partake not in the meat, nor the breastmilk, nor the ovum, of any creature, with a face.”

“What?” you might exclaim.  “I thought you were on my side!  You don’t care about vegan values or ethics!  Only through obvious suffering on our parts can we make the suffering of animals apparent!”

No, silly.  Hear me out.  Your friends care about you, and they want you to be happy, and here you are not giving them any clue as to how to help you have a good time.  So help them!  Follow the ABF rule and soon good times will be had by all.  The benefits are multifold:

1) You’ll be guaranteed delicious vegan food that you know you can eat!  No awkward asking of questions, such as “is there cheese in this?” You can breathe easier and keep your blood sugar levels stable.

2) Your host won’t have to worry about you.  I always shoot my friends an email or text letting them know what food I’m bringing over so they know I’m set (and so they can plan their menus).  I don’t know about you, but I have some really nice friends.  When they have me over, they want to treat me well and make sure I want for nothing.  However, very few of them know about vegan cooking or even what it means to eat vegan.  Thus, by bringing your own dessert (and informing the host ahead of time) you avoid embarrassment to you or your hosts when they realize that you can’t have the awesome cake that they baked for you because they forgot that eggs aren’t vegan.

Hard to sell eating vegetables to omnivores when vegans keep calling them “dirt candy.”

3) You might get people to try vegan food who normally wouldn’t touch the stuff with a 10 foot fork.  This actually might be my secret favorite perk of the ABF rule.  My friends generally think of me as a pretty good cook.  I give homemade pickles for Christmas, I make birthday cakes from scratch for parties, and I often bring cookies to work because I like making my coworkers happy.  I built up a reputation for knowing my way around the kitchen while vegetarian, and even though I’m now vegan, I’m keeping that reputation.  For example, I brought the aforementioned 20 pound lasagna to the football viewing this afternoon, and everyone tucked in.  They knew it was vegan, they knew no meat was involved, but they also smelled delicious pasta and sauce and didn’t feel like making the effort to order pizza or cook something on their own.  They scarfed it and complimented me and were satisfied.  So not only did my husband and I have delicious vegan dinner, so did all of our friends.  Everyone, including the animals, wins in this scenario.

It ain’t over ’til the smoke detector sings.

Now, you might be thinking, “I’m up stuff creek, I don’t know how to cook my way out of a reusable bag!”  Well, you have a couple of options:

1) Bring some of those awesome Gardein buffalo tenders to your next shindig along with a Daiya garlic havarti wedge.

2) Fill a couple containers at the Whole Foods hot bar and pass it off as your own cooking.

3) Read my blog, try my recipes, learn!
Now, I went a little crazytown with the cooking for the football today since it was Sunday, I had a full fridge from grocery shopping, and a little extra time, but all you need is to make one tasty thing to share in order to abide by the ABF rule.
For the curious, here are the recipes I brought to Football and Crafts Day:

This excellent hot artichoke dip with smoked paprika from the blog C’est La Vegan:

Makes you want to stab a Triscuit into your monitor.

My own Spinach Lasagna (recipe follows at the end):

Weird Al would approve.

And for dessert, tasty homemade peanut butter cups with crushed pretzels inside from the blog Healthy Happy Life:

WARNING: Vegan food is not all health food.

Spinach Lasagna

(Serves 12)

1 box of no-boil lasagna noodles

1.5 jars of your favorite pasta sauce

1 16 oz. container of Tofutti “Better Than Ricotta” Cheese

1 bag of Daiya mozzarella shreds

8 oz. bag of baby spinach

1/2 cup of dairy free parmesean (I used Galaxy Vegan Parm)

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. garlic powder

a few leaves of fresh basil, if you have it, roughly chopped

pinch of salt, sprinkle of pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put a small amount of pasta sauce in the bottom of a large glass baking dish or lasagna pan.  Layer 1/3 of your pasta sheets on the bottom, overlapping if they don’t quite fit.

2. In a bowl, combine the ricotta with the herbs, salt and pepper.  Microwave the spinach in a bowl until it is soft (about 1-2 minutes).  Add the hot spinach to the ricotta and herb mixture and stir until combined.

3. Dollop the ricotta mixture onto the pasta sheets, using about half of it.  Cover with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese, and about 1/2 jar of sauce (you want enough to cover the pasta, as the sauce is what “cooks” the noodles).

4. Make another layer of another 1/3 of the lasagna noodles, top with remaining ricotta, 1/3 mozzarella, and 1/2 jar sauce.

5. Top this last layer with the last of the noodles, the last of the sauce, and the last of the mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle the parmesean all over, and a small dusting of additional oregano, basil, and thyme if you please.

6) Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more.

7) Let rest for a few minutes (it will be nuclear meltdown temperature if you try to eat it right out of the oven, and burns are no ways to win folks over to veganism) then share with your friends!

Lunch of the Week: Mock Tuna Salad!

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John and I are very lucky in that we often get to eat lunch at home.  He usually works from home, and I have a break in-between jobs so I can drive home and eat something homemade.  I like to make sandwich fillings at the start of the week so we have a quick, easy-to-assemble lunch everyday at anytime.  In the past I’ve made seitan reubens, tofu “egg” salad, and of course, the riblet.  This week I tried something new.  I’ve been trying to incorporate more natural sources of B and zinc into our diets (nutrients that many vegetarians and vegans lack) and I learned that sunflower seeds are greats sources of B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc…the list goes on and on.  I modified a recipe for a “tuna” salad I found at Whole Foods, and the result was so fantastically tuna-esque, my cat Eliot tried to take a nibble!

This is Eliot. He’s 6 feet long.
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped cornichons (of note, auto-correct wants this to say “unicorns”)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup soy mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons kelp granules
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Method:

Put sunflower seeds and almonds into a large bowl, cover with water, lay a tea towel on top, and soak overnight.

Drain the nuts and seeds, pulse in a food processor until very finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go (I have a small food processor, so I did this in batches). Transfer to a large bowl and stir in all the other ingredients. Serve immediately, or cover and chill until ready to serve.

Good in a sandwich, in a pita, or on top of arugula with some tomatoes, a dash of champagne vinegar, and extra red onion!

Cure or Crap? The Homeopathic Remedy Game! (An Ongoing Series)

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“You want to put what WHERE?”

As a fancy vegan, I’ve decided to eschew many common over-the-counter cures from my local CVS because of the animal testing policies of their producers.

Look at our deceptive marketing! Beige! A stalk of wheat!

(Aveeno, I’m looking at you…oats and “all natural” labeling does not an ethical product make.)

For this reason, I’ve been forced to turn to quack hippie homeopathic cures for a lot of things.  As a lady of science, I can’t just take a witch doctor’s word that this or that plant plucked from the ground will magically cure what ails me.  I need empirical proof, though trial and error, either my own or through proper scientific research.  Proof and experimentation can be expensive though, especially when your snake oil can be found in the Whole Body aisle at Whole Foods.  Thus, I’m here to separate the cures from the crap for you, in case you are interested in healing hives, stopping sniffles, and incapacitating insomnia without a ton of chemicals.

Outside of ethical concerns, I have other reasons for staying away from the chemical way.  I’ve always been sensitive to cold medicine and pain killers (I took DayQuil once last year and it made me faint…in the middle of giving a physics lecture to a classroom of college students).  I either get really nauseous or dizzy when I take these kinds of products, which kinds of defeats the whole point: aren’t treatments supposed to make you feel better?

Another reason I wanted to explore more natural options is because a lot of drugstore “cures” for ailments just cover up symptoms.  They don’t actually make your cold go away, nor does a hydrocortisone cream stop the internal mechanism that is causing your eczema.  In fact, prolonged use over time can lead to greater problems (such as steroid creams leading to thinned skin, or on a global scale, overuse of antibiotics leading to super bugs).

Let’s start with some that you’re probably already familiar with and work our way out to the more exotic:

Tastes like “wellness.”

Zinc lozenges, such as Cold-eeze: Studies have shown that these are actually effective, which surprisingly doesn’t exclude them from being a homeopathic remedy.  The mechanism by which they work is not fully understood, but they have been proven to shorten the duration of a cold by up to 42%.  Personally, I can’t stand the taste of them.  They really give me the gags.  But if I can’t take time off (which is always) and I feel a cold coming on, I plug my nose and suck on a bunch. (You really have to take the recommended amount to get it to work; it’s the zinc overload that fights the cold).  The worst side effect is that it can make your mouth sore and make you want to puke a little.  It’s better than being flat on your back with a cold for a whole week.

And no, I don’t endorse this solely because there is a cat on it.

Arnica and Tiger Balm: I take ballet, which inevitably means I have a sore something or other occasionally from a battement too high or plié too deep.  There are a few homeopathic remedies I’ve tried.  Arnica is a flower that gets crushed into a cream or gel and as far as I can tell, you get more pain relief from rubbing the ointment in than from the remedy itself.  Tiger Balm, on the other hand, is awesomesauce.  It’s the natural world’s version of IcyHot.  It has menthol, camphor, cinnamon and clove oil in it, so you get this great cooling sensation on top of your skin along with a gentle warmth underneath.  It does make you smell like these ingredients though, so be warned–you might end up smelling like a koala on a bender.  It’s their potency that makes it work, and also that makes it stink.

Oat Couture.

Oatmeal, tea tree, and calendulal: I descended from olive-skinned Sicilians who enjoy a balmy, sunny climate year round.  So, my skin is happy here in New England for a paltry 25% of the year.  The other 75% is spent cursing my family name in a constant cycle of itching and not sleeping due to terrible, terrible eczema.  These are three main homeopathic/natural routes by which I try to keep it in check, and while all three are effective, the effects are short lived.  (I’m sure there will be future posts in which I chronicle my ongoing battle and the ridiculous things I apply to my skin/ingest to manage it).

Seriously good and gentle.

Oats, as it turns out, are good for your insides and your outsides.  Eczematous (is that a word? It is now) skin has a higher pH than regular skin.  This means it is slightly alkaline.  Oats act as a buffer, meaning they lower the pH back towards normal, so there’s good reason why a colloidal oatmeal bath feels so good when you’re itchy. (Apparently a baking soda bath would have a similar effect, and I hear some recommend a bleach bath, but that idea just scares me).  When you see the term “colloidal oatmeal” it’s not a special kind of oatmeal; it just means the oats have been ground so fine that they completely dissolve in water and form a new, inseparable solution.   You don’t have to shell out big bucks for that individually packaged oatmeal baths, either.  All you need is to grind up one cup of oats in a food processor until a fine powder has been made.  Then, dissolve in a warm (not hot) bath.

Tea tree has antiseptic properties, and can help keep bacteria out of areas that you might scratch. (It’s also pretty good at keeping skin clear of pimples; I have this toner from Lush and it’s effective and smells clean and lovely) Calendula too has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.  I’ve not used straight calendula oil, but it’s been an ingredient in products that I’ve found effective for stopping itch.  Such as this aptly named product from Derma E:

It does what it says!

It has all three of these itch-fighting ingredients in one cooling, minty cream. (I am just getting into their line of skincare and so far I am impressed.  Their moisturizers actually get absorbed into the skin, rather than sitting on top, and the whole product line is cruelty-free, paraben free, and made in the USA.)

For People Who Want to be ‘On the Go…’

Senna leaf: Senna is a leaf that can be made into a pill or a tea and has laxative qualities.  It really works.  ‘Nuff said.

And now for the snake oil…

Ugly name, pretty flower.

St. John’s Wort: Generally believed by the homeopathic community to be a mood booster, firmly believed by me to not do a damn thing.  I prefer a vegetarian vitamin B complex (that

includes a high dose of B-12) to regulate my mood and metabolism.

Not my panacea, echinacea.

Echinacea: This pretty flower in pill form was a staple in my household growing up, and I remember drinking Echinacea tea when I was sick.  I tried it again in my adult life, and concluded that it was the hot beverage and not the flower that was making me feel better.  There have been studies that show echinacea is sometimes effective, sometimes has side effects, and is sometimes a waste of money.  You’re better off with zinc if you can stomach it.

Melatonin: I have some friends who swear by this hormone as a sleep aid, but when I was struggling with a few months of insomnia, it did nothing for me.  Studies have shown that it might be helpful for people who wake up in their sleep (those with interrupted sleep cycles) but I was the kind of insomniac who could not find her way to the land of Nod in the first place. I was better off with a bottle of red and a hot bath as my GPS.

That’s it for this episode of Cure or Crap!  Tune in next time when we address natural food fads, such as aloe juice, flax oil, and chia seeds. Yes, people are now obsessed with eating those very same seeds we grew on our terracotta sheep back in the day!  You can taste the hype!

First Official Post: Happy World Vegetarian Day!

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Hey everyone!  Welcome to Smooth Not Crunchy, a blog devoted to one person’s view (mine) on this crazypants world we live in.  The title comes from the opinion most people hold of vegans that live in Boston and work for non-profits: that we all smell like patchouli, we all wear nothing but clothes made of hemp, we militantly push our food views upon all carnivores, that we unquestioningly vote liberal all the way, and that we are all pasty, scrawny weaklings.

I don’t want to eat anything with a face…but I also don’t want people to assume I support expansion of government!

I am none of these things, and therefore not a Crunchy Hippie.  I’m a Smooth Hippie.  I enjoy skyscrapers, spas, ballet, cities, bathing, hygiene, long candlelit dinners, and other fancy things.  [In the interest of full disclosure, I, like most Crunchy Hippies,  love me some kale.  I even eat it raw.  So that’s the one thing that maybe I share with all the tattooed hipster neckbeard vegans.  But that’s it. I swear.]

Maybe because eating this makes me feel like I’m a dinosaur eating mini-trees.

I’m not here to change your mind about things, I’m just here to show you some of my favorite things and maybe encourage you to try something new in the process.

So, in honor of World Vegetarian Day, I give you the story of how I became vegetarian and the recipe that made my husband John decide that one could lead a rich culinary life and still be kind to animals.

I actually went vegetarian twice.  The first time, I was a freshman at BC, and the dining hall contained a paralyzing smorgasbord of culinary options.  I would often try something new every night.  My favorite thing, however, was the build-your-own-stir-fry bar.  You load a bowl with your veggies and protein, and the food prep staff would cook it to perfection.

Or, at least that was what was supposed to happen.  The cooking, that is. One day, hidden underneath a puddle of sesame teriyaki sauce, a pink, slimy piece of chicken breast peaked out at me. And laughed.  “REVENGE IS MINE!” said the raw chicken goo.  Because I had already eaten half the plate.  As my guts turned themselves inside out, the walls melted, and my stomach danced the Macarena, I thought, “I never ever want to do this again” and swore off eating any animal flesh all through college and into the year after.

After college, however, being vegetarian was really hard for me.  For one, I couldn’t cook.  Two, I was super broke-ass broke.  Three, I lived with all guys who were all about frozen burgers and buffalo wings. So I was limited to eating pasta with sauce or cereal at almost every meal.  Not surprisingly, I felt like crap.  I was tired, anemic, and also having trouble making food choices when I didn’t always pay the grocery bill.  So I caved, and every once in a while, I had a burger.  Or a nugget.  Or sushi.  Okay, I went full on back into being carnivorous.  And it was fine, sometimes even delicious and awesome…for a while.

When John and I moved in together, the nearest grocery store was a Whole Foods. Now, the meat at Whole Foods can be scary expensive, so I would often just buy meat substitutes or tofu and throw it in a marinade to save money.  Sure, we still ate meat, but the default, due to monetary restraints (and also my fear of proper meat handling techniques) was often Da Fu.  But I still enjoyed a steak when his parents took us out to dinner…
So how does one go full-throttle into herbivore land? For me, it was strange and unprompted.

One day, after John and I got engaged, everything very suddenly changed.  I looked at the meat in the supermarket–the shiny, perfectly portioned and zip-locked chicken breasts, the trimmed and boneless steak tips, the bologna, and saw past the formless pinkness.  Something in me switched off.  I tried to pick up the package, but sighed and said, “Nope, I’m done.”  The meat grossed me out.  It made me sad.  It gave me a small panic attack.  It was no longer a health or money issue, it was an ethics issue–a personal ethics issue.  No one pressured me, no one gave me guilt.  I just looked at the meat case and couldn’t reconcile buying any flesh that had come from an animal, no matter how far removed in appearance it had become.  I had always loved animals, but it had taken over 25 years of my life for me to connect, really connect, that medium-rare piece of filet Mignon to the big brown eyes of a cow. I always knew beef came from cows (as do most of us) but that knowledge finally mixed with my claim to be an animal lover. And like mixing orange juice and toothpaste, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

This was my own personal experience, and because it took me, a person who loved animals to begin with, so long to make this lifestyle choice, I do not wish to force my opinions on others.  I know from experience that when the light gets turned on, it usually stays on, but you have to make that realization for yourself.  So while I don’t force my friends and family to go veg, I do encourage them to know where their food comes from, and to try new things that may not be meat-based.  After all, as that old, tired cliche goes, “you are what you eat.”  So I’m a giant stalk of kale.  And John is a box of Triscuits.

Back onto the subject of John, here’s the recipe that he was a fan of even when he still ate meat.  It’s a vegan knock off of the McRib.  Stay classy, my friends.

RIBLET!!

The same flavor as the original, none of the “ulgh I hate myself” after eating it!

1.5 cups chopped onions
1.5 tsp vegan butter substitute (Earth Balance is good for this)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup tahini
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp salt
4 cups seitan, roughly chopped and divided (found in tubs near the tofu at Whole Foods)
2 cups bbq sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 and oil baking sheet. Saute onions in a medium pan, combine yeast, tahini, paprika and salt in a medium bowl. Add onions and butter and combine well.
2. Put into a food processor half the mixture and 2 cups of the seitan. Set aside and repeat with the other half.
3. Form mixture into rib shapped patties about 1 in thick. Bake uncovered for 45 min., pour two cups of BBQ sauce on the ribs, increase heat to 375, and bake for 20 minutes more (until well done, edges gettin’ caramelized). Serve with extra BBQ.