A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

Archive for January, 2011

Vegan “Ricotta”









I use this “ricotta” in a lot of recipes, from stuffed shells or lasagna to white pizza and calzones. It’s easy as pie (well, actually pie is a pain in the butt, because you have to make the crust and then you have to peel and slice the fruit and then if you don’t have instant tapioca you have to get in the car and go to the store and the Freshtown NEVER has what I need so I wind up going to Amenia or Pawling and what a pain THAT is and it takes so long and my pie is still sitting on the counter waiting for me to finish it and by this time the cat has jumped on the counter and is eating the crust because it tastes like butter…). But I digress. 🙂

Nods to Marilyn Diamond – her “Stedda” Ricotta in The American Vegetarian Cookbook is the basis for this version.

1 package extra firm tofu (between 12 oz. and 1 lb.), drained

1/4 – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (or 1/4 tsp. each oregano and thyme)

2 – 3 Tbls. vegan parmesan (I use the Galaxy brand)

Cut one fourth of the tofu off the block and put in a medium sized bowl. Mash well with a fork – try to make the pieces all uniform in size. Place remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Add more oil if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency. Scrape into the bowl with the mashed tofu and mix in the “parmesan”. Taste for salt, adding more if necessary.

Great if you mix in cooked, minced broccoli or cooked chopped spinach as a filler for manicotti. Makes 2 – 2 1/2 cups.


What’s a Vegan?

My daughter Louise is a vegan. She became a vegan at age 17 when she realized in the deepest part of her being, to her utter disgust and horror, that she was eating animals. Real, beautiful, flesh and blood, intelligent, sentient creatures that felt pain and joy. There was no announcement, no teenaged declaration of independence. There was only a realization that this was what she had to do.

When Louise was little, the farm next door to us had a herd of Charolais cattle. Charolais cattle are beautiful, white cows that are raised for beef. Humans eat them. They used to come up to the fence by our house and stick their beautiful heads over the fence and slobber green kisses on our hands and arms. Cow tongues feel like the roughest sandpaper covered with a moist layer that smells like freshly mown grass. Getting kissed by a cow is wonderful thing. On late summer nights, we would see the empty transport trucks go to the farm. We would hear cows bellowing in the darkness and know that the babies were being loaded up to be sent to some feedlot somewhere to be fattened for slaughter. We sat on our deck and listen to the cows crying for their babies. For a solid week after, the cows that came to our fence looked desperate and “talked” a lot more than usual, almost as if they hoped their calves would hear them and come back.

Louise is one of the most compassionate people I have ever met. She won’t eat meat, dairy or anything else that comes from an animal. She won’t wear leather. She has encouraged her friends to boycott companies (like KFC and the Ringling Brothers circus) that have records of abusing animals. She will defend any living creature that is not being given a fair chance to live a happy life. She has stuck her neck out for humans and animals, regardless of the potential for ridicule or criticism. And I back her 100%, because she is thinking and acting and living her truth.









What is a vegan? A vegan is a person who will not consume animals in any form. A vegan is a person who has compassion toward all living creatures. A vegan is my brilliant, loving daughter. Thank you, Louise, for allowing me to see that living outside the box is sometimes the right thing to do.

Love, Mom

Guns and Butter

Years ago, shortly after we were married, my husband Richard said a funny phrase that I asked him to explain. The phrase, “guns and butter”, is from economics and is used to describe how a country divides its national spending into funds used for defense and funds used for consumer goods. The more funds spent on defense, the less there is for consumer goods. It has, over the years, morphed in our household into the “need vs. want” model. What do we really need (guns) and what do we want (butter)? I long ago realized that I NEED only two dresses – one to wear and one to wash. Ditto with underwear. I NEED one pair of shoes. I have two pair, a pair of sneakers, a pair of boots AND two pairs of slippers. I NEED a coat – I have that plus a vest and several sweaters. I NEED one nightgown. I have 15 or so (I have serious nightgown issues….). I NEED a place to lay my head at night and a roof over my head. I have those things in spades. I NEED a way to get to work. I have a car – a new model, no less! When I look at all the things I have, I become so grateful for the abundance in my life. However, I still occasionally fall prey to the butter demon, though.

Yesterday I got paid from my church job. It happens once a month. However, that means that the money is not accessible until Tuesday, because the deposit will get credited today, with the funds available tomorrow. Being that it is the end of the month, this means I had to borrow $20 from Rick’s wallet  to get all the food lined up in my house for Monday and Tuesday. $20 for two days. Full of an “I can do this” attitude, I set off for the grocery store.

I found myself wandering through the store in a foul mood. I felt poor. I hate that feeling – the feeling that I work my butt off and have little to show for it.  I couldn’t get the vegan meatballs because they were $4.99 a package and that was a full quarter of my budget. There went Louise’s meatballs for Monday’s dinner. Mushrooms in the package I wanted (portabello caps, more than enough for Tuesday’s pizza) were $3.49. That’s almost $10 a pound for fungus! That’s ridiculous! As I wandered through the store, lamenting my pathetic budget, the guns and butter phrase floated through my head (thanks to my guardian angel for the timely reminder).

I stopped myself short and thought for a moment. What do I need? Really, truly need? I started to think about everything I had already and realized I was being utterly ridiculous.

For Monday, the menu is:

Breakfast – cold cereal with dried fruit

Lunch – egg salad sandwiches with pickles for Rick and I, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for Louise.

Dinner – Spaghetti and meatballs for Rick (vegan meatballs for Louise), salad and garlic bread.






For Tuesday, the menu is:

Breakfast – oatmeal with apples and dried fruit

Lunch – peanut butter and jelly for all

Dinner – a white pizza with vegetables and salad.

I had most of what I needed at home, but I still needed a few things.

Our breakfast supply was low – I needed cold cereal, oatmeal and apples. I got house brand raisin bran and rolled oats. We had enough cow and rice milk and dried fruit at home. I also got 3 apples – one for each of us.

I had all the ingredients for lunches at home. Since I make all my own bread, the garlic bread, sandwich bread and pizza dough are covered. However, I needed meatball meat for Monday night. Rick rarely gets a big meaty meal, which is his preference, so whenever he asks for meat, I try to get him enough to satisfy him. So I got that. Three-quarters of a pound for $2.92. I can bulk that up with some sauteed onion and bread crumbs. Maybe a chopped tomato. Roll them and bake them and, if there are any leftovers, he can make a meatball hero for lunch on Tuesday.

I had plenty of salad greens for both days, but needed some vegetable toppings to go on Tuesday’s pizza. I chose a bag of spinach that I know will get eaten wherever it turns up – no waste. Cook it all at once and it will be gone almost as soon as it is cooked. We love spinach.

I chose one beautiful zucchini. Only one. Yes, I wanted more, but I only needed one for Tuesday.

I also chose mushrooms, but a $2.49 package that worked out to be cheaper per ounce, and the least expensive can of black olives I could find.

I needed the tofu to make a tofu “ricotta” that my daughter and husband will both eat. Another $2.

I needed a box of tissues because Rick has a bear of a cold and is going through them like wildfire. I also got a bag of lentils ($1.19) to bulk up the spaghetti sauce and add some protein for Louise.

All total, my shopping jaunt was $21.10. I kicked in the extra money from a $5 emergency stash I keep in my wallet.

It worked out in the end. It usually does, too, in a way that will illustrate whatever Life lesson I’m working on. I am profoundly grateful that my guardian angel tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of what was truly important. Reminded me of the abundance of butter in my life. I am especially glad that she did it when nobody was around. I’m sure I looked silly standing in the grocery store staring at nothing…

A New Way of Life

It occurred to me recently that I needed to find an outlet for all my recipes and musings. I needed a place to put my thoughts because my head is getting awfully crowded.

I considered writing a book. Maybe one book about parenting, another book about cooking (maybe two of those), a book about God and Elvis and Einstein and all those other individuals that we humans put on pedestals. But I also needed a book about balance – how to balance family and work, husband and daughter, God and Science, omnivore and vegan, exercise and sloth, water and wine, magical organic vegetables and utterly seductive and unctuous fois gras.

I detest hand-writing things – my hand cramps up because I never learned the right way to hold a pencil (although, God love him, my father tried to teach me). I could use our old IBM Selectric typewriter. It still works. The problem is – what do I do with all the paper? My family can tell you that I lose my glasses when they’re on my face. I have misplaced more important papers than I can count (“the IRS wants WHAT?”). I guess the typewriter is out, much to my chagrin. I don’t have my own computer. My state-of-the-art (for 1972) Dell gurgled its last breath a few months ago. That’s OK, because it was a piece of crap anyway. All I have at my disposal are an ancient PowerMac and a borrowed MacBook Pro. I love the MacBook, but it’s one of my husband’s work machines, so it’s not always a fixture in the house. The old PowerMac is great for playing Monkey Shines and Tetris, but it’s not good for much else. It can’t even support an internet browser – it’s that old! I do have a nice long lunch hour at work in which I could technically write, but I hesitate to leave personal files on the BOCES LAN. Makes my George Orwell antennae all twitchy.

My girlfriend Terri has a blog. I love Terri’s blog. It’s got pictures and music and everything! A few minutes reading her blog in the morning is like sitting down to a chat at the kitchen table with a steaming cup of coffee. THAT’S what I want to do, I decided. However, I’m such a computer moron that I need the help of my 18-year old daughter to figure this blog-thing out. After all, she facebooks, tweets, tumbles and has her own YouTube channel. She the expert, right?

And so she is dragging me, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century (only 11 years after it started – I think that’s pretty good!). I’ll learn this as I go along. My writing will improve. I promise not to be snarky or complain too much – after all, the ladle is half full. I promise to be open and honest and will try not to be terrifyingly ugly (there are a lot of cobwebs in my head). I promise to push the philosophical and political envelope. Maybe I’ll figure out how to add music someday. In the meantime, sit down at my kitchen table with me and grab a cup of Joe. I have lots to say…

Wishing you all abundant Peace –