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

Archive for October, 2011

Thanksgiving

Call me organized; call me crazy. This morning I sat down and wrote out a rough menu for Thanksgiving. It is mostly vegan, with one small piece of turkey for my husband.

Here’s the preliminary menu for Thanksgiving:

Maple roasted turkey breast

 

 

Maple roasted seitan

 

 

creamy vegetable soup (vegetable to be determined)

 

 

picture it with spinach...

spinach, orange & red cabbage salad

 

 

 

 

mashed potatoes & carrots

 

 

 

roasted butternut squash

 

 

roasted, balsamic-glazed brussel sprouts

 

 

corn, lima and red pepper succotash

 

 

groovy onion gravy

 

 

vegan pumpkin cheesecake

 

 

 

When I was growing up, the Thanksgiving menu never changed. Turkey, bread stuffing, pan gravy, cranberry sauce, some sort of vegetable in Campbell’s soup sauce. The thought of eating so heavily now that I’m older is repugnant to me, so every year I try new recipes in the hope of creating new traditions that I can pass on to my daughter. I hope this menu is a step in that direction.

Wishing you all a compassionate Thanksgiving. Be kind to one another.

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Buster -aka- Moop

This past weekend we lost a member of our family.┬áBuster, our companion cat and friend of 14 years, didn’t come home on Saturday night. He didn’t come home on Sunday morning, either. On our way to a lunch date, I spied his lifeless form on the side of the road. It was evident that his back was broken, he had suffered a head injury and had died some time during the night.

Buster came to us when Louise was 4 or 5. He was rescued from a drainpipe by our firefighter neighbor, who knew we were cat lovers. From the first moment he came into our house, he set about finding his place in the pride. He and Louise went back and forth for years trying to decide who should be higher in the pecking order. Buster would chase Louise around the yard, jumping up to swat her in the head. Those were the days he won. Louise would counter attack by strapping him into a harness, insisting that she was going to teach him to walk on a leash. In the end, Louise won through sheer persistence and love. She nicknamed him Moop, and he accepted his place as the youngest member of our family (although he never did walk on a leash for her).

Moop was a fun, independent, and ever so quirky cat. He hated to ride in the car, but loved to driveway surf (standing on the outside of the car as it rumbled down the driveway). He would run full bore toward a tree, vault about 6 feet up in the air and cling to the trunk in an heroic pose. Then he’d jump down and swagger away, as if to say, “no biggie – bet you can’t do that.” When we left the house, he would patrol the driveway until we came home, then run to the car, vault up on the hood and surf back to the house. He would also stand on a high place and jump onto the shoulders of the first person who happened to walk by, draping himself around their neck like a fur scarf. He could curse a blue streak, too. If we didn’t do what he wanted, when he wanted it done, he would chirrup and blurt out what we clearly understood to be the feline equivalent of f-bombs.

A teacher by nature, we saw him teaching younger neighborhood cats hunting skills, stalking birds through the grass as the student watched the master. He also tried to teach us when he wanted to come in by clinging to a closed window on the OUTSIDE, his body fully extended and attached to the window frame like a rock climber. (Didn’t work.)

He was a good cat, a kind soul who loved nothing more than snuggling on a cold night. I’m sure he wished he didn’t go out Saturday night, but he loved to explore and hunt, and I can’t change the nature of a cat. I hope he died quickly and didn’t suffer. I hope he knew how much we loved him. I hope the person who killed him feels some remorse.

On Sunday afternoon, with warm golden Autumn sunshine streaming from a crystal blue sky, Richard and I buried him under the apple tree by the driveway, a beautiful spot from which he can watch our comings and goings. Then we clung to each other for a few minutes, both keenly aware that we had just lost a very dear friend.

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Vegan isn’t Convenient

It’s been two weeks since I started my vegan odyssey and it’s been a remarkably easy transition. There have been a few moments of weakness (which I indulged) but the vast majority of what I’ve eaten since early October has been vegan. I’ve even tried out some new recipes that I LOVE and know Louise will love when she comes home from college. (She’s already warned me that she’s going to eat us out of house and home.)

I feel better – lighter. My skin has cleared up. I have lost weight, have more energy and am sleeping better. The one thing I have noticed, however, is that being vegan is NOT convenient. There’s SO much food prep involved and it’s not conducive to an active lifestyle. But I will persist until Halloween.

Recently, I went to a diner with some girlfriends to catch up on old times. This diner has a 10 page menu that contains both diner classics, perpetual breakfast and some innovative and interesting entrees. Nice place to sit and chat. There is nothing on the menu that does not contain animal products except half a melon and cocktails (and even some of them contain cream). Everything else contains dairy, eggs or flesh. You can certainly order something like a salad without the goat cheese or get your sandwich without mayo or cheese, but it was no small source of frustration to not be able to sit down and just eat. Even the menu items “vegetable wrap”, “eggplant panini” and “grilled vegetable quesadilla” contain dairy. Another time, I stopped at a Cumberland Farms store, famished during a long road trip, and there was not a single thing that I was able to eat. Well, I could have gotten a bag of potato chips and a soda, but chose not to go that route. Then, just this week, I went to my local grocery store to buy some whole grain bread and, in the entire aisle, there was only ONE loaf that was vegan. Why is it so hard to find food that contains no animal products?

This morning I made a breakfast scramble with tofu, onion, red bell pepper and tomato. I served it with a small piece of whole grain toast (with non-hydrogenated vegan margarine) and sauteed Yukon Gold potatoes with caramelized onions in olive oil. I drank a small glass of organic pineapple juice and a cup of coffee with coconut milk creamer. It was a delicious, leisurely morning. However, if I am having a grab-and-go morning, my options decrease significantly. A piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter and jam is usually what I manage on workday mornings.

I’m not complaining; I’m observing. It seems to me that a society in which 68% of adults are overweight or obese (and that includes me) should push a health solution that includes eating better. Obviously, you can’t legislate what people put in their mouths. However, you can offer tax breaks and other financial incentives to restaurants, health food stores and grocery stores selling vegan options. Make fruits and vegetables cheaper than potato chips. You shouldn’t be able to buy a box of faux-food Little Debbie cakes for .99, while apples are $2.49 a pound. Apples should be .99 and Little Debbies should be $2.49. ESPECIALLY in our current economic mess, we need to address the fact ┬áthat it’s expensive to be healthy.

It shouldn’t be. The food industry needs to restructure its pricing to make highly processed, industrial Frankenfood more expensive than low-on-the-food-chain options. This morning I spent 30 minutes preparing a nutritious, delicious breakfast. It cost around $7.50 to make. I could have gone to McDonald’s and gotten a sausage burrito, hash browns and a coffee off the dollar menu. $3 plus tax. However, that “convenient” meal would have fed me with 460 calories, a whopping 26 grams of fat and 13 grams of protein. Instead, my meal contained 370 calories, 11 grams of fat and 16 grams of protein. Had I gone without the margarine on my toast, the counts would be 320 calories, 5 grams of fat and 16 grams of protein. Now why is the cost of my meal more than double that of the McDonald’s Frankenbreakfast? It shouldn’t be.

Pretty unappealing looking, isn't it?

 

I realize that I am tilting at windmills here, and that taking on this Goliath would be foolish. However, it is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. By telling our local stores that we want less processed food, by patronizing markets that sell local food in season, by writing to people in the FDA and the USDA, we can plant seeds that will grow in the future. The future health of humanity depends on feeding it good food today.

Go vegan one day a week. Then stretch it to two or three. If you are an avowed carnivore, start by eating smaller portions of leaner meats. Be open to new tastes and textures. Try it! Nobody ever died by eating fewer Twinkies. However, I’m pretty sure that eliminating Twinkies will help you live longer.

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My First Week

It has been one week since I decided to go vegan for National Vegetarian Month. Except for the feta cheese that made it to my stomach before my brain realized what it was (some day I’ll post about conscious eating), I’ve been doing OK. I’ve had some delicious meals, a few days with main course salads and a wonderful somewhat spicy peanut butter/coconut milk sauce with fried tempeh. Some of the meals I planned I was too tired to make, so I ate a few sandwiches (to wit: last night I made a riff on a reuben with tempeh, cheddar Daiya and kimchee). Since the salad dressing ran out, a trip to the market is in order so I can make more.

My skin is becoming smooth, my pointy chin (which I had forgotten was pointy) is coming back and I have a LOT more energy. There just might be something to this vegan thing.

Here’s the spicy peanut butter tempeh recipe. It’s adapted from a Vegweb.com recipe, a great place for vegan recipes.

for the sauce

  • 1 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
  • 1 14-oz. can coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. curry powder (I used a hot one)
  • 2 tsp. ground dried chipotle powder
  • 4 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. turmeric (you can skip this – it gives the sauce an unattractive color)
  • 4-6 squirts Bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce

for the tempeh

  • 1 8-oz. package tempeh, cubed (I used a garden veggie flavor)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • vegetable oil

for serving

  • cooked basmati rice
  • cooked green peas
  1. Mix peanut butter, coconut milk, curry, chipotle, cumin, turmeric and Bragg’s in a saucepan. Heat slowly over medium heat, stirring occasionally to melt peanut butter.
  2. In a separate frying pan, heat about 1/4″ vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Fry tempeh until golden brown on all sides; add garlic during last 30 seconds of frying. Drain on paper towels.
  3. To serve, plate some cooked basmati rice. Top with warm peanut sauce and the cooked tempeh. Serve with green peas or another green vegetable. You will have a LOT of sauce left over. It’s great with tofu.

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National Vegetarian Month

It has just been brought to my attention that October 2011 is National Vegetarian Month, and that yesterday (10/1) was World Vegetarian Day. Since it is also National Vegan Blogging Month (don’t who thought THAT one up), I’ve decided to go vegan for a month and see how I feel.

This is going to be hard for me – I am so used to having pork and cheese that I will have to be vigilant to pull this off. Not counting yesterday’s breakfast (the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich I ate before I found out it was National Veg Month), I’m doing OK so far.

Last night for dinner, I made whole wheat tagliatelle with roasted tomato and onion sauce and eggplant/tofu “meatballs”. Although the balls were a little oily, they tasted like eggplant parmesan. Next time I’ll cut back on the oil and press the tofu first (a step in the recipe that appears to be necessary, but one that I omitted). This morning I made a whole wheat breakfast pizza topped with tofu scramble, olives, Daiya “cheese” and tomatoes.

Here are two recipes I would like to share. In the first, I give the original recipe and tell what vegan substitutions I made. The second is the scramble I used on my breakfast pizza. It’s great on its own as a breakfast entree with toast and maybe some grilled tomato slices. It’s also great in breakfast burritos with cheese and olives.

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Eggplant Tofu “Meatballs”

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 med. eggplant, peeled, cut into large dice
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed or minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. pesto (I used sun dried tomato pesto)
  • fresh parsley and basil (I used dried)
  • 1/2 pound extra-firm tofu, sliced and pressed for 30 minutes
  • 2 eggs (I used Ener-G egg replacer)
  • 1 T tamari
  • 1 T flax seeds (next time I would use flax meal instead)
  • 1 T nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts, optional (I didn’t use them)
  • 1 thick slice Italian bread, toasted
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat panko crumbs)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (I used Daiya brand mozzarella style)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried Greek oregano
  1. In a large, heavy skillet, heat 5 T olive oil and add eggplant cubes. Let brown for 7 minutes or so, tossing occasionally. The eggplant will soak up all the oil and, when cooked, begin to release it again. Smash the cubes with a potato masher or fork and set aside in bowl to cool.
  2. In the same pan, heat 3 T olive oil and add garlic and onion. Cook until translucent, season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down a little and add pesto, stirring to coat onions. Add about 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley and several leaves of basil, thinly sliced. (I used 1.5 T dried parsley and 1 tsp. dried basil. I also added the dried oregano at this point.) Set aside to cool. (I added it to the bowl with the eggplant and mixed it up.)
  3. Crumble the pressed tofu into a bowl, add the eggs, tamari, flax, nutritional yeast and walnuts. Crumble the toasted bread into the tofu mixture. Stir the eggplant mixture and the rest of the ingredients into the tofu. Start with 1/4 cup bread crumbs and add more if the mixture looks too wet. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes so the bread and breadcrumbs will absorb the moisture.
  4. Shape the mixture into balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter (golf ball size). They will be soft, but should hold together well when shaped.
  5. Place the balls in a lightly oiled baking pan or on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

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Tofu Scramble

(adapted from The American Vegetarian Cookbook by Marilyn Diamond)

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 small tomato, finely diced (or 1/4 cup canned petite diced tomato, drained)
  • 1 pound firm tofu, drained
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 T nutritional yeast
  • sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add tomato and saute briefly to heat.
  2. Crumble tofu into skillet, breaking up any large pieces. Stir to mix with vegetables.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the turmeric, curry, cumin, onion powder and nutritional yeast. Sprinkle in an even layer over the tofu in the pan, stirring to mix well and give everything a lovely yellow color. Saute tofu until hot, add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

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