Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Veg Nog

Music: Todd Rundgren, Anthology**

Today's smoothie: Swiss chard, last of the fresh pineapple, banana, bit o'avocado

Here's something for everyone to enjoy during the holidays!

I have never liked egg nog, but Jim does and he was determined to come up with a tasty vegan version. He has found it because even I like it!

2 C MimicCreme Cream Substitute (make sure it's the Sweetened one, which is thicker)

2 C hazelnut milk (we use Pacific brand, & buy it at Nutri-Foods)

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp turmeric (for color)

1/4 C agave nectar

2 tbsp pure maple syrup (we use Trader Joe's grade B for baking)

Blend all in a blender until smooth. Add more spices to taste. Serve chilled. Makes approximately 1 quart.

We enjoyed it with a delicious (and wonderfully-smelling) Cara Cara orange (a gift from my one of my co-workers) and the last of the Sugar Plums.

**I discovered Todd Rundgren only a few years ago when I saw the movies Almost Famous and The Virgin Suicides, both of which feature his songs. Jim, of course, had heard of him and I picked this up from the library one day. He's very original to say the least and I really enjoy his music. This past summer, I got a real treat when I got to hear him perform live at the Comerica City Fest downtown. It was a fabulous show! He's had so many hits, though, that he didn't have time for "Hello, It's Me," "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference," or "A Dream Goes on Forever" (all of my absolute favorites).

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy New Year!

Music: Olivia Newton-John on my iPod**

Today's smoothie: organic curly parsley, 1 banana, bit o'avocado, 1 large mandarin orange, chunks of organic fresh pineapple.

What are your New Year's Resolutions, if any?

It has been one year this week since I started this blog, and I'm still really enjoying it, enough to continue. Many people have told me they enjoy reading it (thank you!) and that it's well written and easy to understand (thank you, again!). The longer I am vegan, the more convinced I am that I'm doing the right thing, not only for my body & my health, but also for the environment and for the animals.

As each new year approaches, I always try to think of ways I can do things even better. In 2010, I hope to drastically reduce what I throw away, hence the handkerchiefs (in place of tissue) and rags (in place of paper towel). I'd like to find a replacement for cotton balls but, until I do (I can't seem to find the right fabric alternative), I will purchase organic cotton balls. I plan to replace using plastic bags to throw away used cat litter but don't quite have a solution yet. Any tips would be appreciated.

For gift-giving I hope to make things (or bake things) or purchase them from people who are creative, such as Etsy.

Health-wise, I'd like to incorporate a lot more raw food into my daily lifestyle. I've got some good recipes to try and what I have tried, I have really enjoyed.

One thing I've already started (but would like to increase), is reading books about healthy living, with a focus on how food affects the body. Right now, I'm reading a book that Jim purchased, The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. On my to-read health list are also books by Dr. Neal Barnard (who has studied the effects of food on health) and raw food books (both lifestyle as well as cookbooks).

I'm also looking to the future & hoping to find a way to live without a mortgage. Jim & I are exploring the condo lifestyle right now, asking questions, researching, etc. It would be wonderful to not have a mortgage anymore (or even have it be the cost of a low car payment!), to live more ecologically, and to live more simply. We're always up for suggestions for that.

In short, I plan to continue what I've been doing, just doing it better and finding newer ways to live the simple life I want to live.

**When I was eleven years old in 1979, Olivia Newton-John was hugely popular, and I loved her. My gym teacher, Mrs. Decker, even played the Grease soundtrack during our gymnastics exercises (which we 5th graders thought was so cool!). I thought she was beautiful, sweet, & very talented. I've come more to admire her over the years as she has aged gracefully and continues to be very much a lady.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Visions of Sugar Plums

Music: The Carpenters, Christmas Portrait

Today's smoothie: baby spinach, 1/2 a banana, bit o'avocado, frozen mixed fruit (grapes, strawberries, pineapple, cherries), 2 tiny clementines.

Raw Holiday Sugar Plums

I have to admit that the name of this recipe first caught my attention as I immediately thought of the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker ballet. It just sounds magical, and they look magical, too.

I discovered this fun recipe from a raw vegan blog I follow, called In the Raw. The blog is filled with pretty pictures and lots of information on the raw lifestyle. Her photo of the Sugar Plums is better than mine but I still think they look good.

Obviously, as the blog title suggests, the Sugar Plums are completely raw and the only tool you need is a food processor. I halved her recipe but it still made 24 balls, enough to enjoy & share. Full of fiber, these taste as good as they look. Oh, and they're easy to make, too! Check it out.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Better Than "Meat" Balls

Music: Squirrel Nut Zippers, Christmas Caravan

Today's smoothie: organic herb salad mix, frozen strawberries, frozen peaches, banana, bit o'avocado.

This one's for LuAnn ( Her recipe for Tofu-Walnut Balls is so easy, versatile, and delicious!

Jim made some, we froze half, but then he served them with his homemade tomato sauce, spaghetti, and roasted brussels sprouts. Oh, and some homemade garlic bread (using whole grain bread, spread lightly with Soy Balance Buttery Spread, then sprinkled with a bit of garlic powder). Yum!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Red Indian Carrot Soup

Music: Blue October, History for Sale, Foiled, & Approaching Normal on shuffle**

Today's smoothie: baby spinach, 1/2 a banana, bit o'avocado, fresh pineapple chunks

This is the halved recipe for this quick and delicious soup, from Super Natural Cooking:

3/4 pounds carrots

1 1/2 tbsp soy butter (or extra-virgin olive oil)

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 cups vegetable stock (I just added 1 cube vegetable bouillon)

1 tbsp agave nectar (you could use honey)

Sea salt, to taste

Wash & scrub carrots, then chop into 1-inch segments. Heat butter in large soup pot over medium heat, then add garlic and onions. Saute about 5 minutes, or until onions start to become translucent. Add stock and carrots, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until carrots are just tender. Remove from heat & stir in agave nectar.

Cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then blend carefully with an immersion blender. Season to taste with salt.

**I first heard about this band from author Stephenie Meyer's web site. She creates playlists of songs that inspired her during her writing of the Twilight series and Blue October is one of her favorites. I can hear why.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Being Vegan Is Too Expensive...Too Much Trouble

Music: Diana Krall, Christmas Songs**

Today's smoothie: beet greens, banana, frozen blackberries, bit o'avocado

I hope this post doesn't generate ill will among my friends and readers.

A few weeks ago, a co-worker told me that she could never be vegan. “It’s too expensive and a lot of trouble,” she said. Naturally, I disagreed but we got to talking about work right after that so I couldn’t say more. But here I can.

When somebody tells me they don’t have time or it’s too expensive to be vegan, I would ask, is there something in your day that takes up more time than you realize? For example, how much television do you watch every day? Bear with me on this, please. I don’t watch any. Ever. I find it a huge waste of time and a brain eroder. There’s a lot of time left in the day when there is no television. In the book, No Impact Man, the author, Colin Beavan, comments on this revelation. He’s amazed at how much time there is now in the evenings with his wife, especially after they put their child to bed. He’s rediscovered sex in his case, and it’s a wonderful thing, so much so he’s raving to his guy friends about it. When there is no television, you have time to cook which, incidentally, is about the same time it takes for you to drive to the grocery store, wander the aisles in pursuit of processed “quick” food, drive home, and nuke it. Not to mention the paper/plastic waste your “instant” meal generates. Most of the meals I make take less than 30 minutes.

Like many of my friends and co-workers, I’m on Facebook, and it amazes me how often people talk about television in their “updates.” That’s a lot of time spent watching. Even if you watch only 2 or 3 shows per week, that’s three hours right there including inane commercials. If you get home at 6pm, throw something in the microwave, and start watching television from 7pm to 11pm or whenever you go to bed, that’s 5 hours gone right there! Think about it. You could make good food in even a shorter amount of time that’s wholesome and much better for you and still have time left over for a hobby, sex, reading, exercise, playing an instrument, spending time with your children, volunteering, or visiting with a friend before you go to sleep at night.

Now the so-called “expense” of being vegan. The biggest expense for me was only in the very beginning, when I basically threw out or gave away almost my entire pantry of white flour, white rice, sugar, anything with high fructose corn syrup in it, dairy, etc. and bought vegan alternatives. And, I ask you, wouldn’t you rather spend the money on good whole foods now that will nourish, energize, & strengthen your body, rather than doctor’s bills, surgeries, & prescription medications? I take no prescriptions, have no chronic conditions, and have had no need for surgery. As I’ve said before, I think when someone says it’s too expensive or too much trouble to be vegan, what they’re really saying is that they’re not disciplined enough yet to make the changes in their life that will become habits for better health and a better quality of life the older they get. My poor parents are retired yet, are they enjoying retirement? No. Almost every day is spent in some sort of pain or visiting yet another doctor who prescribes more prescriptions for them that, in turn, lead to more side effects and, thus, doctor’s visits. They’re spending a painful amount of time and money on this and it breaks my heart.

I wholeheartedly agree with the author of No Impact Man. I can’t imagine ever going back to my old way of life, of eating poor food mindlessly at the expense of my health. That’s too much trouble to me. How else do you explain the fact that most people much younger than myself have chronic conditions already and are on prescription drugs? I can’t put a price tag on that.

**I picked up this jazzy holiday CD at the library last year. I love her voice and the arrangements of the songs. She's married to Jim's favorite, Elvis Costello.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Breakfast Wrap, Anyone?

Today's smoothie: parsley, fresh pineapple, 1 mandarin orange, 1 banana, bit o'avocado

Several years ago, a friend gave me the book, Wraps: Easy Recipes for Handheld Meals by Mary Corpening Barber, Sara Corpening, & Lori Lyn Narlock. It is a great little book for all kinds of meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, even dessert!) made in tortillas. Over the years, we've veganized many of them; this is a wonderful easy recipe for breakfast. This recipe makes two but I often halve it when it's just me.

PB & G
2 10-11 inch flour tortillas (I've been using Food for Life's Sprouted Grain lately)
1 banana, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 cup granola
1/4 cup vanilla soy yogurt
2 tsp agave nectar (you could use honey if you prefer)
1-2 tbsp organic peanut butter (for spreading, so use as much as you like)

Warm the tortillas so that they are pliable (we heat them on 200 degrees for a minute or two in the toaster oven), then spread peanut butter evenly over each tortilla, leaving at least a 1-inch border around the edge.

In a small bowl, combine banana, granola, yogurt, & agave nectar until well combined. Divide the mixture evenly between the tortillas, then wrap. Yum!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Good Eats

Music: Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy Duets**

Today's smoothie: organic beet greens, 2 mandarin oranges, 1 banana, 1/3 of an avocado.

Some good eats this week included:

Dilled Cauliflower Salad with Tofu-walnut Balls in Southwestern Barbecue Sauce (from Amazing Meals by LuAnn Bermeo,

Hummus sandwich on toasted multigrain bread, lettuce, & raw onions, with a side of roasted brussels sprouts.

Seitan sauteed in barbecue sauce, in a sprouted grain tortilla, with avocadoes, raw onions & mixed greens, with a side of baked yam fries.

**In keeping with my nerd status as a teenager, I discovered this long-forgotten musical duo and have had a soft spot for them ever since. There are even rumors that they had a real-life lifetime romance. Their movies are the campiest, silliest, stories I've ever seen, and their acting was terrible. But their voices together were romantic and beautiful.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pretty (& Easy) Holiday Cookies

Music: Buena Vista Social Club, motion picture soundtrack**

Today's smoothie: baby spinach, cranberry relish, fresh cranberries, banana, avocado.

The South Oakland concert band played its holiday concert last Sunday and I had to bring a dozen cookies to share. I whipped these up in less than 30 minutes the morning of the performance. They are a wonderful, lightly spiced, holiday cookie that looks pretty and tastes delicious. Not heavy or too rich. Just right.

5-Spice Almond Cookies (from Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan).

1 C + 2 tbsp barley flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 C unrefined sugar

2 tbsp almond slices

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsp 5-spice powder

1/3 C pure maple syrup

3/4 tsp almond extract

1/4 canola oil

unrefined sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients, sifting in soda & powder, & stir until well combined. In a smaller separate bowl, combine syrup, extract, & oil & stir until well mixed. Add wet mixture to dry, then stir well until just combined. Do not overmix. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form rounded balls of the dough with your fingers and slightly flatten on baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with sugar. Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven & let cool for 1 minute on baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack.

**My father came to the United States from Cuba during the revolution when he was eighteen. A few years later, he met my mother so he never returned as he & his family intended. But the influence of the culture prevailed over my life (very Catholic, not allowed to date, ethnic foods and dances, hanging out with other Latinos in the Detroit area, etc.). We also didn't move to Miami like most of the Cubans my father knew when he came here. I often wondered what my life would be like had we moved to Miami. I certainly would have learned the language, that's for sure. When this movie came out, my entire family went to see it at the Main Art Theater here in Royal Oak. And, when the performers began touring, we went to their concerts, a free one at the Detroit Festival of the Arts featuring Compay Segundo as well as a group performance at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor. Whenever I hear this or any other Cuban music, I think of my family.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What I Will Eat This Week

Music: Cake, Comfort Eagle**

Today's smoothie: kale, pineapple, banana, frozen strawberries, avocado

We're still getting produce from the Royal Oak Farmers' Market, though this was probably the last Saturday for most vendors. That's potatoes, onions, cranberries, carrots, brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, Chinese cabbage, mixed greens, lettuce, and two kinds of cauliflower! The amazing thing is that we will eat all of this in one week between the two of us. Before I went vegan, I never ate so many vegetables. My mom would be proud.

Jim made a wonderful dish last Friday night. Unfortunately I was not home at the time of this culinary experiment, leaving all picture-taking to Jim. He does not always take good pictures so I have none to show you. But I'll share his recipe.

Jim's Curried Vegetable Delight

1 yam, diced
1 onion, diced
2-3 large carrots, chopped
3 celery hearts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp curry
1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cinnamon
1/4-3/4 tsp cayenne (adjust to your spicy level)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 vegan bouillon cube
1/2 C lentils
1 tbsp olive oil
1 C rice (wild or brown)
2 1/2 C water
1/4 C raisins dried cranberries or currants

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in large pan. Add all other vegetables and continue to saute 2 minutes more. Add lentils and rice stirring well. Add water, bouillon, & spices and stir well. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 50 minutes or until rice is cooked. Add raisins or dried cranberries or currants just before serving.

**I first discovered Cake at the Royal Oak Public Library, while music browsing. The cover of this album looked sorta retro to me, so it appealed to my love of most things old. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the music as much as the cover art, so I shared it with Jim. It's described as a mix of indie, folk, & pop. I find it very catchy and funny. I've introduced several groups to Jim that he has come to play over and over again on his iPod, including Muse and Rooney. Another reason to like Cake is that they're very ecologically interested in the environment. In fact, they're last recording was made in a studio that was run by solar power! Pretty cool.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Coffee Sans Caffeine

Music: Winter Solstice 178 song playlist on my iPod

Today's smoothie: Chinese cabbage, frozen peaches, banana, avocado.

It’s official: I’ve replaced my second latte of the day--breakfast is still my usual homemade brew with frothed soy milk--with an herbal coffee without caffeine! I first tried Teeccino while on my South Haven retreat and it was so delicious with Silk soy vanilla creamer I bought some when I got home. Both Nutri-Foods in Royal Oak as well as Whole Foods in Troy carry it and there are also different roasts and flavors. So far, I like the Mayan Dark Roast & the Chocolate best. Jim likes these, too, but his favorite is the Mediterranean Medium Roast. This product is almost like what I like to call Depression-era coffee. When people couldn’t afford coffee, they would roast herbs such as chicory and brew “coffee-like” beverages from them. My mom’s family used to do this when she was young. These herbal coffees use (per their web site), “herbs, grains, fruits, & nuts” that they roast. They’re good for people who want an energy boost without the side effects of caffeine (such as acidity, nervousness, etc.). Teeccino also has fiber, which is always good for you.

Whatever, I think it tastes wonderful and I have not had any headaches due to the substitution. And, while I didn’t expect him to, Jim tried the samples I brought back from the retreat and now his afternoon “coffee” is also Teeccino.

Has anybody else tried this and liked it?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cranberry Holiday Scones

Music: The Weepies, Say I Am You, Happiness, & Hideway, shuffled on my iPod **

Today's green smoothie: baby spinach, last of both the fresh pineapple & cranberries, banana.

Jim made a batch of this deliciousness as a host gift when we visited his brother for dinner last Friday night. It’s the same recipe for the Raspberry Scones from the book, Babycakes. Incidentally, Jim’s brother is studying to be a chef and created an entirely VEGAN meal just for us! I was so touched. It was outstanding!

Jim’s brother (also named James) made stuffed peppers with barley & other chopped vegetables, a mixed salad of leeks, baby spinach, & some other green I can’t remember with a carrot vinaigrette. There was also freshly steamed asparagus and homemade bread rolls still warm (I had 3--gasp!). Dessert was poached pears and he kindly also served the scones. So sweet! I think he definitely has a future as a wonderful vegan chef, if I can convince him to pursue it.

Many of you know I'm participating in a 30-day green smoothie challenge, so I thought I'd post a few shots of some of them before they're blended. That's baby spinach, banana, fresh pineapple (my favorite), and water.

The bottom pic is kale, banana, 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, and some fresh pineapple with water. I drink 1 quart a day; that's four cups. When I tell people, their eyes sort of pop open. I'm just thinking, how many cups of soda pop do you drink every day?

**This is my favorite folk duo. I can't accurately describe their style, kinda folksy, kinda whimsical, very harmonic, and lots of great lyrics full of love, humor, and their quirky voices make it all come together. Their songs are featured in the movie Sex & the City and Grey's Anatomy but they're not mainstream by a long shot.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lower Impact

Today's green smoothie: baby spinach, fresh pineapple, banana, bit o'avocado, water.

Jim is currently reading a very interesting book called No Impact Man by Colin Beavan, about a New Yorker seeing if he can live without having any impact on the environment. The author is challenged from the get-go by trying to eat local & seasonal, eliminating all trash, and using foot power in biking & walking as transportation, all with a high maintenance wife & baby in the largest city in the U.S. Jim has been reading snippets that he finds interesting to me and we’re starting to incorporate some of the ideas into our own life.

But I’ve already changed so many things just in the last several years on my own. We have been using cloth napkins for years, we buy all our clothes used, I make most of my own personal care products (body lotion, facial cleanser, shampoo, toner, mouthwash) I've used cloth feminine products from Glad Rags & Rawganique for over two years now, a good friend of mine knitted me some bath cloths for my last birthday which I now use exclusively in the shower, and now I just purchased several handkerchiefs from a Grosse Pointe resale shop to use in place of disposable tissue. I realized the prominent trash I throw out every week is tissue! So I bought twelve to use; they were between 50 cents & $2 each. I plan to also ask my parents if they have any men’s handkerchiefs that Jim can use, as he is also interested. (My parents have a lot of stuff around the house, most of which they never use. I think my father has an entire box of brand new ones sitting in his dresser drawer).

I also plan to eliminate all paper towel from my kitchen as soon as I use up these last two rolls of recycled paper towels I bought from Trader Joe’s. I bought their reusable kitchen cloths instead. I only use paper towels for cleaning and it won’t be any more work than washing all the other things I already wash (napkins, feminine care products, bath cloths, handkerchiefs). I think we’ll see a huge reduction in our trash.

Do you have any low/no impact tips that you do that you can share with me? I’d love to hear about them.

**I grew up dancing ballet, from age 4 to 16. My part in the Nutcracker was one of Russian dancers. And, for many years, I always asked for a recording of Tchaikovsky's famous holiday ballet, but year after year well-meaning family members always gave me "highlights" when I wanted the complete ballet. Finally, during one post-holiday season, I exchanged one CD for the correct CD at Harmony House in downtown Birmingham (remember Harmony House?) and all was right with the world. I never, ever tire of listening to this during the holidays. In fact, my dream is to hear the Detroit Symphony Orchestra perform the complete Nutcracker ballet in a holiday concert. You never see that; it is always accompanied by the ballet performance. But if you listen closely, there's so much going on with all the instruments that, as a flute player, I would find fascinating to see. I might suggest this to the DSO, not that they would pay any attention. But I think it would be a fabulous holiday concert.