Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Even Better New Year

It's that time again. When I try to think of ways that I can improve myself and do things even better than last year.

Inspired by the minimalist blog, Rowdy Kittens, here's my year in review of the good as well as the not-so-good.

The Good:

Our health. With the exception of Jim's mysterious upper back pain that won't go away, we continue our vegan lifestyle of good eating! We've made inroads in eating more raw but for now, we've decided we just love our bread too much to give that up. So we will continue to incorporate green smoothies and other raw foods into our diets. I plan to check out the cookbook, Ani's Raw Food Kitchen, and use her recipes as I've been doing with the vegan cookbooks.

I've decided to stop buying (and, thus, eating), processed snacks, specifically my old favorite, potato chips. I've always loved them but they are not good for me. And the last few times I've eaten them, I've been disappointed; they taste processed. My taste buds are still changing so that could be a large part of it.

Jim asked where I'll get that crunch I love when I eat a sandwich; I'll eat raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, radishes, and cucumbers, all of which are very crunchy. Plus I'll lose those calories that potato chips have.

I'm still drinking green smoothies, but several times a week instead of daily. I make them when I feel like it, be it morning or afternoon, and I'm not so stringent on the one quart requirement either. Sometimes I just don't have all the greens I need in the house and, in the winter, it's not always easy or convenient to get them for smoothies. So I eat my greens as part of my meals instead.

Our carbon footprint. Last year, you may remember, we began making a concerted effort to reduce our trash. We replaced tissue with cotton handkerchiefs and we stopped buying paper towels & now use washable rags instead. We make our own tortillas, granola, muesli, peanut butter, and bread instead of buying them in packages (and we buy the ingredients in bulk).

The quest for reducing trash continues. Besides all the decluttering and drastic reduction of our possessions, I'm eliminating cotton balls once the stash is gone. Since I no longer use shower gel (because I don't want to buy & recycle a plastic bottle) I don't need the knitted wash cloths for that purpose; instead, I will use the cloths in place of cotton balls.

Jim & I are also checking out reusable produce bags; we already use cotton muslin bags for buying food in bulk (from We are tired of the waste of plastic produce bags and want to find an alternative.

The only waste we really throw out now is food scraps (stems, pits, skins etc.). We are thinking of getting an indoor food composter. Gardeners Supply Company sells one. In our last house, we used a worm composter but it was kind of a pain to bring indoors for the winter & we couldn't really use it indoors because of the fruit flies it attracted.

We also sold Jim's car because he now takes either the incline or the bus downtown to work. So we only have insurance and other expenses on one vehicle instead of two.

The not-so-good:

Moving. This has been a very intense and stressful year with an out-of-state move to Pittsburgh from Michigan. I am very homesick and I miss my friends and family. I also miss the comfort of my routines, being in a concert band, and playing in a flute choir. Hopefully, I will come to peace with all this. But, on the good side, it has taught me what's most important: relationships, and that is allowing me to let go of a large part of my possessions.

Losing my job. Because of the move, I had to leave my beloved job. In addition to all of that, the library where I worked, Troy Public Library, is slated to close its doors to the public by April 30, 2010. This has been heartbreaking to me; I am still mourning. I'm mourning both the loss of my job still as well as possibly the loss of my profession. But perhaps it will be a reinvention? Who knows? I would eventually have lost this job anyway when the library closed, but I now wish I had stayed longer, at least until I found something here.

On the flip side of this, we are fortunate that Jim got a wonderful job offer and that the company is paying for his MBA. Otherwise, he would be collecting severance and unemployment.

We are also fortunate that we live so frugally; my unemployment is not the crisis that it might otherwise be. We are still saving money every month and I'm very grateful that we are both on the same page about this aspect of our lives.

It's funny. As I was going through my things, I came across a journal I kept in early 2001 and in it I said "I don't want to have a lot of THINGS anymore. I feel dragged down by too many possessions. What's going on?" This was long before I got so drastic about getting rid of my stuff and, back then, I questioned my desire. Not anymore. So this has been a long time coming but I guess it has always been with me.

For the first time, I'm actually seeing NOTHING I wish to buy in stores. It seems like such a waste to me. Pretty much the only shopping I do now is for groceries and cat supplies (food, litter). Jim got a gift card to Borders for his birthday over Thanksgiving weekend and we wandered aimlessly through the store completely uninterested in buying anything. What he finally decided to do was to get some coffee beans, which we will definitely use! I am just tuned out of the mass acquisition of things. I don't want to buy anything that I can't use or do not need. This is why we have opted out of gifts for Christmas and that includes cards. I prefer to spend valuable time with my friends and family eating out, meeting for coffee, and just talking. That means more to me now than anything.

I like this minimalist blog and especially this post at this time of the year. Maybe it will inspire you, too. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tofu Teriyaki

Music: Tony Bennett, Snowfall

Today's smoothie: baby spinach, frozen strawberries and blueberries, banana

This recipe was so easy and so very tasty that I just had to share it. The teriyaki sauce is homemade so it's very fresh (and delicious). You will never miss the meat in this. The original recipe called for broccoli, but I had some rabe (aka baby broccoli, one of my newest passions) and it was truly an "oh, my god!" moment. Food orgasm.

Make sure all ingredients are ready to go as this is a constantly-adding-t0-the-pan kind of dish.

Tofu marinade
1 pkg. (12-14 oz) firm tofu, cubed
1 tbsp tamari
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar or red wine vinegar (I used red wine)

Teriyaki sauce
1/3 C tamari
1/4 C water
3 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp blackstrap molasses
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh grated ginger (I used 1/2 tsp ground)
1 tbsp arrowroot powder (you could probably use cornstarch if you don't have arrowroot--it's just to thicken the sauce)

1-2 tbsp canola or olive oil
4-5 C broccoli florets (I used a bunch of broccoli rabe instead)
1-2 pinches sea salt
1-2 tsp water
1 large bell pepper (any color)
1/2 C raw cashews (I used roasted/salted because it's all I had)
1/2 green onions, sliced thin

In a shallow dish, combine tofu, tamari & vinegar and let sit for at least 10 minutes or longer.

In a large bowl, whisk all ingredients for teriyaki sauce until arrowroot is dissolved.

In a large saute or fry pan, add 1/2-1 tbsp oil. Add tofu and saute 4-5 minutes until browned lightly on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

Lower heat and add another 1/2-1 tbsp oil to pain and add broccoli, salt, and water. Cook for 4-5 minutes until broccoli turns green. Add peppers and continue to saute another 1-2 minutes. Add teriyaki sauce and turn heat to high tossing all vegetables well. When it begins to boil, add tofu, cashews, and green onions and toss well to coat all with the sauce.

Serve over brown rice.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Warm Winter Drinks

Music: Audioslave on shuffle on my iPod: Out of Exile, Revelations, & Audioslave

Today's smoothie: fresh organic parsley, frozen organic strawberries & raspberries, banana, bit o'avocado

When the weather turns cold, instead of dessert, I enjoy drinks that warm me up. Since I now live in a house that has steam heat, I'm not as cold as I used to be since it's a more evenly distributed heat, but I do enjoy something tasty and warm in the winter anyway. Here are some of my favorites:

Hot Tea

Someone very sweet (thanks, Gail!) gave Jim and I this unique & interesting tea as a housewarming gift. They are tea leaves hand-sewn into the shapes of flowers! The box is made out of bamboo (which, now that I've drank all the tea, I now use to store band-aids!). A variety of white, green, & black teas. When you pour boiling water over it, they "bloom" into pretty flowers. I don't have a clear glass teapot, so I just used a clear glass mug. It looks a little odd, but it's a nice idea. I'm thinking my mother-in-law (a big tea drinker) might really like these.

This one was a green tea with an star anise on top.

Hot Chocolate

2 heaping tsp of good quality cocoa
1 C soymilk (or hazelnut milk or almond milk, your choice)
sweetener of your choice to taste (stevia, agave nectar, turbinado sugar)

Warm all in a saucepan until cocoa is dissolved; make it as hot as you like it. I use my espresso machine to just heat it all up into a nice, light, and frothy delight.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Vegan Sampler IV

I just read a great quote that I cannot verify. I read it in Dreena Burton's cookbook, Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan. In her introduction, she quotes a blog by the name of Urban Vegan:

"When people learn I am vegan and ask, 'What do you eat?' I am actually at the point where I feel sorry for them."

It's true. Non-vegans are under a great misconception that they eat a varied diet if they eat meat, eggs, & dairy and that vegans do not. (I am sure there are vegans out there, however, that only eat processed foods & other vegan junk). In reality, non-vegans are building their meals around one of those three things. My diet pre-vegan consisted of white rice, pasta & tomato sauce, roasted chicken, baked potatoes, a salad here and there, corn on the cob, eggs, cheese, and white bread. Not to mention the occasional processed food of frozen pizza and frozen macaroni and cheese. Desserts were daily selections of Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Hostess chocolate covered donuts, and entire candy bars. Fruit? Maybe some apples, a banana, plums in the summer and the occasional strawberries & other mixed fruits at conferences and meetings.

Now I eat so much variety and there's still so much more out there to try. Every day is an exciting eating adventure.

For Thanksgiving, I made this delicious crisp and, with some Silken tofu, I was able to make both a creamy dill dressing for this coleslaw as well as this chocolate pudding/mousse.

Apple and Cranberry Crisp from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer

1 1/2 C frozen cranberries
2 medium organic green apples (I like Granny Smith), cored & diced
1/4 C sugar (turbinado or evaporated cane juice)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 C rolled oats
3 tbsp vegan margarine at room temperature (Earth Balance makes one)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a glass pie plate (or square 8-inch baking dish). In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for filling and mix well. Spoon into baking dish. In the same bowl, combine all ingredients for the topping and blend well. Spoon this mixture evenly over the filling in the baking dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

Chocolate Pudding from How it all Vegan by Sarah Kramer
1 C soft (or silken) tofu
1/4 C oil
1/2 C sweetener
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine all in a food processor & blend until smooth and creamy. Chill before serving. That's it! Unlike with nasty packaged puddings, there's no need to heat it first and it doesn't have that nasty gelatin-jelly consistency that I never could stand with pudding. Ugh! This is just pure chocolatey goodness. I completely fooled my parents with this.

Coleslaw with Creamy Dill Dressing from Short-cut Vegan by Lorna Sass

1/2 C silken tofu ("lite" is okay)
1 small bunch of dill, tough stems removed
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
6-7 C shredded green cabbage
1 C grated or finely chopped carrots (I used my food processor to pulse them into tiny bits)
1/4 C red onion (I used green onions, all parts)

In food processor or blender, combine tofu, dill, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, & sea salt until well blended. Place the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and add the dressing. Toss well.