Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Sans Turkey

Music: Queen, The Game**

Today's smoothie: collard greens, leftover cranberry relish, banana, 1/4 avocado, water.

It's a few days late, but I thought I'd post some pictures of our vegan Thanksgiving meal. That's roasted beets & carrots around a Chicken-Style Tofu Loaf (that I had made the week before & froze half of), Fresh Cranberry Relish, Farmhouse Stuffing, & some Cashew Gravy that Jim made (because Jim must have gravy). For my part, I do not like either gravy or cranberry relish (or sauce) on my food. I'll make the cranberry sauce for the family, but don't eat it myself. I find my food is just fine without it and that it actually makes my food taste bad. Go figure.

All these wonderful recipes are in LuAnn Bermeo's Amazing Meals ( It's kind of neat to have these fabulous recipes and know that, if I have a question, I can just email & ask her. Since she reads this blog, I don't feel I should post any more recipes from her books because she'd really rather sell the darn things, you know? Anyway, they are so worth it. You won't be sorry. Unless she says otherwise, I will just advertise the great food with pictures.

Jim & I ended up eating our meal at home before we visited my family for dessert later in the day. We just couldn't figure out how to make our food (ahead of time? Freeze it & reheat later?Too many cooks in my mother's kitchen, etc.). It worked out okay, actually, because some friends of ours visiting from Petoskey were in town & stopped by in the morning. I got a little distracted from my cooking while they were here so I forgot to also make a green salad and add onions to my roasted vegetables. Oh, well. There was plenty of food to eat!

While I was at my parents' house on Thanksgiving and helping my mother put leftovers away, I opened a cupboard & saw a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix. My mother has always used this and, until I met Jim, I didn't think pancakes could be made any other way. As we know, I was wrong, wrong, wrong!

Now I know that I will never eat Aunt Jemima pancake mix again. It tastes like cardboard! I'm so used to whole grains' heartiness that I would be hungry in an hour if I ate these! Jim made these delicious pancakes from Amazing Meals, where the recipe is really a base for biscuits! And they look it! These are made with apple and they puffed up like little Dutch babies. So flavorful. He used whole wheat pastry flour for that whole grain taste that my tastebuds have come to love. If I didn't get up so darn early, I would love to have friends over for breakfast to serve them these amazing pancakes.

I love eating good food!

**Jim is the original Queen fan in this house; he has been a huge fan since junior high in the '80s. Me? I jumped in with the rest of America when "We Will Rock You" became a hit. But the other day, Jim received Queen Rock Montreal (1981) on DVD & we watched it. I really, really enjoyed it and was amazed at their talent. So Jim is introducing me to classic Queen, including this great album. My favorite songs so far include "Dragon Attack," "Killer Queen, & "Tenement Funster."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

That Teeny Tiny Fine Print

Music: Squirrel Nut Zippers, Christmas Caravan**

Today's green smoothie: parsley, frozen raspberries, banana.

Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you MUST read labels! It’s really beginning to annoy me how many animal products are in everything, and I mean everything! I’ve mentioned before that I was taking the occasional ibuprofen caplet to control mild menstrual pain but, when I went out to buy some more, I decided to read the ingredients and I didn’t like what I


Ibuprofen has glycerine, gelatin and magnesium stearate, all of which are animal by- products. Glycerine is made from animal fats, gelatin is made from the boiled skin, tendons, ligaments and/or bones of cows and pigs, and stearates are stearic acid which is taken from the fat of cows, sheep, & euthanized animals from animal shelters.* Yuck! Why, you may ask, are these products used? Because it’s cheaper and it uses all the other parts of the animals that aren’t used for food.

So now I’m using white willow bark, an herb made from the white willow tree. It is an anti-inflammatory (just like ibuprofen is) and works the same way. You can read more about it here.

*How It All Vegan by Sarah Kramer & Tanya Barnard, cited from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

**This happy-sounding group is one that I missed seeing several years ago at the Magic Bag Theater in Ferndale, when they toured on their 20th anniversary reunion tour. They would have been great to see live. I love their swing sound, with unexpected additions of banjo and violin thrown in for fun.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Who Likes Cauliflower?

Today's green smoothie: spinach, raw cranberries, banana, 2 ice cubes, water

This seems to be an almost forgotten vegetable. Or one that is somehow only eaten on raw veggie platters. I grew up eating raw cauliflower as well. My mom served it that way so that's how I had it. When I've eaten salads with it, it's always raw, too. So I never really cared for it. I found it tasteless & bland. On the retreat weekend, however, it was served steamed with herbs. When I got home, I sought out a recipe in one of my cookbooks. So easy! Sometimes you just need to rediscover another way of cooking something to appreciate it.

This is from Shortut Vegan. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!

Dilled Cauliflower

1 cauliflower, cut into florets

water to steam

1 small red onion, coarsely chopped

1 tsp dried dill

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small garlic clove, minced

2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

I placed a colander over a saucepan with water & added the cauliflower, onions, & dill. When tender, I drained the water, threw the cauliflower, onions, & dill in the pan and added the rest of the ingredients, stirring well to combine. This way of preparing it makes it perfect to eat either warm or room temperature in a salad.

**If there is a definitive Christmas album from my Hispanic childhood, it's this one. From the year of its release (1970) on, this album was played over and over in my house. Every single time I hear it, I think of my Cuban grandparents, Antonia & Rafael Almaguer, and Christmas dinners in their basement (the kitchen was way too tiny). There, with family & friends, after dinner, we would dance to Latin music played on the stereo. Fun times!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Tale of Two Sautes

Today's smoothie: vitamin greens, frozen raspberries, banana, avocado

Spicy Potato (& Onion) Wedges (adapted from Amazing Meals by LuAnn Bermeo

1 lb potatoes (Jim used purple), sliced into thick wedges

1-2 onions, sliced very thickly (really, as many as you want which, for me, is a lot!)

1 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

2 tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Spread (the recipe called for olive oil, but Jim wanted a butter flavor instead--I tell you, he’s always experimenting!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside.

In a saucepan, melt 2 tbsp buttery spread then add spices to combine. Pour this mixture over potatoes & onions in a large bowl, then toss to combine. Place on baking sheet & bake for 10 minutes. Turn the potatoes & onions, then bake for another 10 minutes or until they are browned & crispy-tender. Serve hot.

Here I served them with a tofu sandwich.

Mushroom, Kale, & Onion Saute

Bunch of kale, washed, & stems removed

1 large onion, chopped in very large chunks

4 small portobello mushrooms, washed, stems removed, & sliced into thick wedges

In a skillet with a little olive (or other light) oil, saute kale & onions for a few minutes. Meanwhile, in shallow dish, combine 1/2 tbsp liquid smoke seasoning, 2 tbsp olive oil, & 1 tsp agave nectar. Dip mushrooms into marinade before adding to skillet with onions & kale. Cook on one side of the pan until browned on both sides, then combine with kale & onions. Serve hot.

Mushroom, kale, & onion saute served with Chicken-Style Tofu Loaf (from LuAnn Bermeo's Amazing Meals;

Leftover Jerusalem Chickpea Sandwich Filling in whole wheat pita with raw onions, arugula, & avocado

**I saw this movie at the old AMC Hampton theater on Avon Road in Rochester when I was in high school. And while I enjoyed the movie I really liked the soundtrack even more. I especially enjoyed "Season in Hell" (Fire Suite)--it reminds me of "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles-- and "Boardwalk Angel." I bought it on LP vinyl and still have it in my collection, now also on my iPod.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chickpea Sandwich Spread

Today's smoothie: kale, frozen peaches, banana, avocado

I have a co-worker who doesn't read my blog, yet constantly asks me what I have for lunch or dinner. It's kind of funny and defeats the point of my blog (to save myself the time explaining) but there you are. She always seems amazed that I would be able to find something to eat and says, "Oh, that sounds good!"

I made this the night before to enjoy the next day as the recipe, from Shortcut Vegan, promised the filling would taste even better the next day. They were right!

Jersusalem Chickpea Sandwich Filling

1 celery stalk, quartered

1 3/4 C cooked chickpeas or 1 15-oz can, drained & rinsed

2 tbsp tahini

2-3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste

few sprigs of parsley

2-3 tbsp water

dash of cayenne pepper

Pulse all in a food processor until you get a coarse thick spread.

I actually combined these instructions with the Lemon-Tahini Sauce recipe (which this recipe requires 5-6 tbsp of). I didn’t feel like making an entire cup (which the sauce recipe makes) just to make this sandwich filling. So I fiddled with it and combined ingredients in both recipes to get what I was after. The result was delicious. Jim said it tasted like tabbouleh.

I served it rolled up in a warmed whole wheat pita with arugula and raw onions for my work lunch.

**I confess!; I like The Carpenters. Unfortunately, the only thing they're remembered for now is the fact that Karen died of heart failure due to complications from anorexia nervosa. What's forgotten is that her voice was absolutely beautiful and clear and that she was an accomplished drummer. Yes, that's right, she played the drums! The Carpenters were a soft, classy presence in the hard rockin' 1970's and were also discovered by Herb Alpert. Again, I only remember hearing the Carpenters on the radio or seeing them on television when I was a child; I don't think my parents had any albums. I think my cousin Suzanne had a 45rpm single of "Bless the Beasts and the Children." But I always enjoyed their music and was very sad to hear of Karen's death when I was thirteen. Her death brought anorexia nervosa to media attention (remember the book The Best Little Girl in the World)? Troy Library owns two albums by them; very cool!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Soup and Slaw

The other day I made some new soup and slaw recipes, both from Shortcut Vegan. They came out well, but next time I would add another whole can of beans as well as more tomatoes to the soup as it didn't come out as thick as I had hoped. I even used an immersion blender to try to make it thicker as it seemed to want to be that kind of soup.

Caribbean Black Bean Soup

2 1/2 C water

1 14-oz can light coconut milk

1 14-oz can diced tomatoes w/green chilies or 1 can diced tomatoes w/1 fresh jalapeno, seeded & diced (I didn't have either so just used diced tomatoes)

1 15-oz can organic black beans

sea salt to taste

freshly ground pepper to taste

Tabasco sauce, to taste

1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro (or 1 tsp dried if you don’t have fresh)

In a large soup pot, bring water, coconut milk, & tomatoes (w/liquid) to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Add beans and seasonings (except fresh cilantro if using). Cover, turn off heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Serve with fresh cilantro. This soup is spicier the next day (as are most soups).

This paired well with the Asian Slaw:

3 tbsp brown rice or seasoned rice vinegar

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 1/2 tbsp tamari

1 head Napa cabbage, shredded

1 C grated or finely chopped carrots

1 C diced onion

1/4 to 1/3 C chopped fresh cilantro

Hot red pepper sauce, like Tabasco, to taste

raw sliced almonds, pomegranate, & sesame sticks were my add-ins upon serving

Make dressing with first three ingredients & set aside. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Use dressing & other toppings just when you’re ready to eat or it will get soggy. It’s also wonderful served with sauteed tofu rolled up in a whole wheat pita for lunch the next day.

Jim making a green smoothie with our blender. While they taste great, I know they can taste even better because Susan made our samples at the retreat with a Vita-Mix blender. What a difference! So smooth and creamy. I soon will probably burn out this motor...this picture shows about 4 cups, or a quart, which is the goal for each day of our 30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge.

**Oddly enough, I discovered Sergio Mendes & Brasil by listening to AM580 (which I've been listening to for at least ten years); they used to play a lot more of their music. I don't recall my parents having an album of theirs. I read that they were discovered by jazz trumpeter Herb Alpert; one reviewer on their first album called them a gentle mix of laughter and sex. I love the combination of their voices and the arrangements of their songs. Very cool, very retro, very sixties.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Breakfast--My Favorite Meal of the Day

Today's smoothie: mango, banana, avocado half, vitamin greens

While on my retreat weekend, I decided that I also should be using a variety of grains for my morning muesli. I enjoyed a 5-grain hot cereal and amaranth (cooked in a slow cooker on a timer overnight) as well as a cold Swedish muesli for my retreat breakfasts which got my mind really going on all the possibilities.

I also purchased a two-set cookbook (Amazing Meals--trust me, they ARE amazing!) written by LuAnn Bermeo, one of the chefs for the retreat. LuAnn lives on the west side of the state and her cookbook is filled with hundreds of delicious vegan recipes.

I tried her recipe for Magnificent Morning Muesli over the weekend and it IS magnificent. It uses raw rolled oats chopped up even more in the food processor. I was a little dubious about this thinking it would have to be soaked overnight like my usual muesli. You can soak it if you wish but it's not necessary. It has a wonderful chewy texture that does not have an uncooked taste.

Here’s the recipe as I made it, enough for me to have a few days’ worth:

1/4 C flaked raw coconut, toasted or not

2 tbsp raw pecans

2 tbsp raw walnuts

2 tbsp dried apricots

2 tbsp pitted dates

2 tbsp figs

2 tbsp dried cranberries (you could also use raisins)

2 tbsp raw sunflower seeds

1/8 tsp sea salt

2 C uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats (or combination of other rolled grains--think barley or rye flakes)

In a food processor, combine coconut, pecans, walnuts, apricots, dates, & figs, then pulse until desired texture is obtained. You don’t want a powder. Transfer to large mixing bowl.

In a food processor, combine rolled oats and dried cranberries and pulse until cranberries are chopped. Again, you don’t want an oat powder so watch carefully. Transfer to mixing bowl and add sunflower seeds & sea salt & stir well to combine. Transfer to jar or other airtight container and refrigerate.

Eat as usual cereal with soy or rice milk, soy yogurt, flaxseed meal or fresh fruit.

This is SO much better for you than processed boxed cereal and doesn’t take very long to make. Plus it tastes so good and will last you several days. How’s that for easy and delicious?

I plan to make many more dishes from this cookbook, but if you're interested in purchasing the cookbooks, contact LuAnn via email at

**I'm pretty picky when it comes to musicals. My absolute favorite (though I've never seen it live) is The Music Man. I just love the humor, the songs, and the general fun mood it evokes. Whenever I hear the overture or other songs from the show (usually on WRCJ), I get a big smile on my face. And Robert Preston singing "Ya Got Trouble" ALWAYS makes me feel good! After all, what's better than a band?

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's for Lunch? Or Dinner?

Music: Donna Summer, On the Radio, Greatest Hits**

Today's green smoothie: parsley, fresh pineapple, 1 banana, 2 ice cubes, water

This recipe that Jim tried (from Vive Le Vegan by Dreena Burton) is a great alternative to potatoes and the taste is a great combination of slightly sweet and salty spicy. In a word: delicious!

Chipotle Yam Wedges

2 tbsp olive oil

2-3 tsp chipotle hot sauce (I use Tabasco brand)

2 lbs yams, peeled & cut in wedges (we bought organic so just scrubbed them & left skins on)

1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine olive oil & chipotle hot sauce, then add yam wedges and toss. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (including any oil/sauce mixture still left in the bowl), & season with sea salt. Bake for 45-55 minutes (depending on your oven), tossing once or twice throughout, until the wedges have browned and are soft when pierced. Season to taste with more hot sauce and/or sea salt.

Yesterday, Jim made some homemade polenta with his tomato sauce and a big green salad of greens, raw onions, & carrots with lemon juice, sea salt, & pepper. I prefer to make polenta from scratch (instead of those instant tubes) because it tastes fresher to me. The tubed polenta sometimes tastes rubbery in texture.

Last week, Jim made a bean hummus with his beans from the garden and we enjoyed sandwiches on toasted multigrain bread with some classic lentil soup.

**Yes, that's right! I LOVE Donna Summer, but only her diva disco years. Her music was part of the soundtrack of my childhood as my parents (& aunts & baby sitters & cousins) constantly played the radio. Dance on, Donna!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Old-Fashioned Makeup

Music: Nat King Cole**

On my South Haven retreat, a woman presenting the seminars on raw foods and green smoothies mentioned a web site called Safe Cosmetics ( At that web site, there is a link to a database called, Skin Deep, where you can put in the names of all the cosmetics you use and it will tell you what the ingredients are and if they are considered safe for your use. It’s amazing to me what the FDA allows women to use on their skin, the largest organ of our bodies with millions of pores! Even I, who only wear translucent powder and a bit of mascara, was shocked to find that Physician’s Formula brand (one my eye doctor recommended) cosmetics contain toxic ingredients!

Well, I don't want that in my body.

So I decided to try to make those two products with homemade ingredients. After a little web browsing, I came up with this recipe for my face powder:


organic rice flour

organic cocoa powder

I sifted all in a little saucer, adding cocoa until I got the color closest to the powder I was already using. I tested it on the top of my hand for color matching, then my face. It smells so good! I used cocoa powder because I’m dark haired and have a little darker pigment to my skin tone than blondes.

For mascara, I just used barely any almond oil on the tips of the tops of my lashes after using a lash curler.

The real test was did the look last all day? Yes, it did! No more toxic cosmetics for me. And a lot cheaper, too. What a scam I've been fed all these years. Better late than never.

**My father loved Nat King Cole and one of my earliest memories is Cole singing, "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy, Days of Summer." Whenever I hear it, I think of my dad.