Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Weekend Lunch

Fennel, red pepper, & spinach salad, red potato salad with lemon juice, and basil cucumber gazpacho

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Produce Porn

This is just the produce that isn't refrigerated, but we will eat all of this in one week: 18 bananas, 4 avocadoes, 4 plums, 4 granny smith apples, 4 nectarines, 6 heirloom tomatoes.

In the fridge, from both our CSA and our co-op (which, by the way, has THE BEST produce in the city limits of Pittsburgh), there is also a head of red cabbage, 3 cucumbers, bunch of green grapes, a bunch of basil (which we'll make into pesto), 2 bunches of parsley, a pound of green beans, a head of lettuce, a quart of blueberries, 4 bags of greens (for smoothies), green onions, and two fennel bulbs.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Chickpea Curry

Serve with any grain; I used barley & it was delicious.

This recipe, officially called "Chickpea Curry in a Hurry," comes from Lorna Sass's Shortcut Vegan.

I've tweaked it a bit to suit my personal taste but it's so easy and delicious you'll definitely want to try. What follows is my tweaked recipe:

1 15 oz can chickpeas
1/2 C chickpea cooking liquid from can (you can use water if your chickpeas aren't organic)
1/2 of a container of Pomi brand chopped tomatoes
1 tsp mild curry
1 tsp hot curry
3 C baby spinach
1/4 shredded coconut
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1/2 tsp salt

In a large pot or saucepan, combine all ingredients EXCEPT baby spinach. Bring almost (but not quite) to a boil over medium high heat, then cover and simmer for five minutes. Add spinach, stir, and serve with grain of your choice. I used barley in the picture above but I've also used rice (brown, brown basmati, or short grain brown).

Sass's recipe adds either green chilies or a seeded jalapeno but I think a sweet green pepper might be good enough since the hot curry is so strong. She also uses more coconut but I want to taste everything and I find coconut can be overpowering sometimes.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What Else Can I Say?

Johann Sebastian Bach: The Brandenburg Concertos

When I started this blog in 2009, I had been vegan for a little over a year. I was so excited about how wonderful my body felt and how much it had changed that I wanted to share my experience with others. Also, many people had been asking me questions like, "So what DO you eat?!" and I felt that this blog was a great way to explain.

But now that I've been vegan almost six years (!) I know I will continue this lifestyle for the foreseeable future and I don't think I have much left to say about my experience. What started out as an experiment for my health as I grew older (I'm 45 now) has evolved into even more as I seek out non-animal products as well (clothing, for example).

Farmers' Market in South Haven, Michigan

So I will not be updating this blog much anymore unless the inspiration hits me and I want to share some news or a new recipe that I think others might be interested in.

I will still leave the site up for the recipes and posts so that, even if you stumble across it later, you still have access to it.

I just feel my interest in the subject has become every day for me, and indeed it has as it should. I don't even really think about being vegan; I just am.

 I wish to write about other topics and this space doesn't fit that form. I love history, books, Jane Austen, and reading so I have started a new blog over on tumblr if you'd like to take a peek.

Please feel free to ask me any questions about food, health, and being vegan in future and, as always, I'm very happy to share my experiences.

Monday, May 6, 2013

What About Snacks?

Over the years, many people have asked me if I snack and, if so, what do I eat? I must admit I've always been (annoyingly?) disciplined (just ask my husband!), mostly practicing restraint. I haven't really liked to eat between meals. But when I did, it was most likely something either sweet or salty: a candy bar or a bag of chips.

Now that I've been vegan over five years, however, I don't like those foods for snacks anymore. My taste buds have changed so much I no longer eat sweets, caffeine, or processed foods. I don't crave them either. In fact, often while waiting for the elevator at the library, I'll glance over at the vending machine--that conveniently lights up to catch your attention--and think that that food is so stale. I can't believe I ever ate that. It will probably still be good after 100 years.

Now I eat fruit--usually an apple or other in-season fruit such as a pint of blueberries or a peach in summer. I'll also drink a cup of nettle tea or a large glass of water.

In the evenings, about 30 minutes after my green smoothie, I will sometimes eat a Granny Smith apple with organic peanut butter.

So my "snacks" are fruit, if anything. If I had to come up with some vegan snacks, however, for those who are asking, I'd say guacamole* and organic corn chips, hummus on whole grain crackers or bread with thinly sliced radishes, or a bowl of granola or raw muesli with a non-dairy milk.

*Smash an avocado or two with a fork, squeeze some fresh lime juice, and add sea salt to taste. You can add chopped jalapeno, tomatoes, garlic, or onion if you wish.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lunch for the Week

Music: Handel: Water Music

Every Sunday, I prepare food to take to work for lunches during the week. Yes, it can sometimes be tedious and feel like a chore but it also saves us a lot of money and ensures that we are eating well.

Today I baked extra firm tofu* seasoned with toasted sesame oil, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, and a delicious all-purpose spice blend:

**1 package of extra firm tofu, sliced and patted dry in a dish towel to absorb water
1/2-1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2-3 tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos (you could also use soy sauce or tamari instead)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the sesame oil on a large baking sheet and, using a spatula, spread evenly over entire sheet.

2. Lay tofu slices on baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart.

3. Pour Bragg's over tofu slices. Flip the pieces of tofu so they are all evenly coated with both oil and Bragg's. Sprinkle all-purpose spice blend on each piece of tofu.

4. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and turn over slices. Bake for another 12 minutes. Let cool before putting in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Use prepared tofu to make sandwiches or put into wraps--I use 2 slices-- with avocado or tomato, lettuce, and Veganaise.

I also cooked a grain for the week; today it was barley. During the week, I then combine the barley with a variety of chopped vegetables (carrot, cucumber, avocado, tomatoes, celery, olives, radishes, onions, whatever else I might have on hand), and some sort of dressing--usually a slice of lemon & sea salt or toasted sesame oil & sea salt--for a salad to enjoy along with my sandwich.

I also take an apple or two and sometimes one of Jim's delicious scones. I love that he barely puts any sugar in these now. They are perfect with my nettle tea & a good book.

*recipe from The Garden of Vegan
**I like Trader Joe's Organic Extra-Firm Tofu best as it holds up well to baking.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What Being Vegan Means to Me

To be vegan is to be aware of every single thing you put into your body.

To be vegan is to nourish your body with a wide variety of plant foods, from greens to grains to legumes.

To be vegan is to feel the best you have ever felt in your entire life.

To be vegan is to want to share how wonderful you feel with others with enthusiasm, not judgment.

To be vegan is to know that the longer you are vegan the better you will feel with each passing year.

To be vegan is to know that your body is rebuilding and repairing itself each and every day.

To be vegan requires discipline and a love for your body and all living things.

To be vegan is to realize that you only have one body in this life so you want to take care of it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

I Don't Miss Cheese

How I used to love my dairy! Ever since childhood, I drank a glass of milk daily and put cheese on almost everything. I loved gooey, buttery grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.

But when I decided to go vegan in 2007, I never really thought about cheese. I automatically bought "transition" foods including vegan cheese, which is made with either soy or other non-dairy milks. But they weren't very good tasting (in my opinion) and were just as sticky and hard to wash off my plates as dairy cheese. I actually wondered what that sticky mess was doing to the INSIDE of my body if it was so hard to wash off a plate or pan!

Then Daiya vegan cheese came along and I tried it. Again, I wasn't impressed although many vegans love it.

Fact is, I just don't miss cheese. At all. It's not even on my radar. But many people have told me that this is the number ONE reason they can never become vegan. I have since learned that it's because cheese is addicting.

I don't recall craving or missing it when I became vegan. Perhaps I ate the vegan cheese and that satisfied whatever craving I had?

We make pizza without cheese but I no longer even make a vegan macaroni and cheese because I  don't really want to eat cooked pasta, preferring more raw foods and sprouted grains instead.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Environment & Acne

I follow several vegan doctors on their web sites and through their published literature including Neal Barnard, Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., T. Colin Campbell, and John MacDougall. All of them endorse a vegan diet to manage and prevent chronic disease and all of them are looked upon warily by the general medical community. Why? Because their patients get better through diet, not just through prescription drugs.

Farmers' Market offerings, South Haven, Michigan

Dr. MacDougall once said that if you have a skin irritation, you can put some healing cream on it. But if you continue to scratch it, no amount of cream is ever going to help. Until you stop scratching the skin, it will never completely heal. In other words, if you're damaging your body, no amount of medicine will help if you don't find the source of the problem and stop the damage in the first place.

I learned this recently. For the past year, I have been suffering from acne in the form of severe blackheads on my face. I have NEVER had blackheads to this extent before. I occasionally suffer from the random cystic blemish during my monthly cycle (due to hormone fluctuations), but these blackheads were very hard bumps on my face that lingered for months only to come to a painful head which left dark spots on my face.

I was at my wit's end. I went to see a dermatologist and, of course, they gave me some topicals. But I also wanted to find the ROOT of the problem, so I visited a homeopathic physician as well. She prescribed supplements. Okay. But the problem was still there.

I love books, but the dust can be a problem

I decided to take matters into my own hands as I have several times before in my life--years ago I suffered from insomnia and solved my problem through research and experimentation. Through the years, I have often kept a written log when I have had problems and it helps me see patterns. This was no different.

But it was my husband who first suggested an environmental cause. I work in a very old library in Pittsburgh where the upper stacks have seen years of coal dust settle onto its books. When I was working in these areas of the library, as I would pull the books down from the shelves, the coal dust was falling onto my face, over and over again, clogging my pores, filling with dirt, and forming blackheads.

Libraries are VERY dusty.

As an experiment, I decided to stop working in this area for one month. I didn't get a single new blackhead and this has allowed my skin to finally heal. I use an exfoliant and a topical prescription to keep the hormonal cystic acne under control so I do realize the benefit of some prescriptions. I also put fresh aloe vera gel on my face to help fade the dark spots.

So what am I doing in my job? I'm having the books brought to me instead of pulling them myself, keeping myself well away from the damaging toxic dust.

How about you? Are you suffering from a chronic ailment that no amount of medicine is helping? Have you discovered what the problem is? How did you do it? I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Green Smoothies for Dinner?

Music: Uta Weyand, Enrique Granados

Recently, I've decided to change the time of day I drink my green smoothie. For awhile now (probably almost a year), I have not liked feeling so full in the evening from eating a regular evening meal. Since I exercise in the evening as well as in the morning, this is part of the reason. I just much prefer my largest meals of the day to be breakfast and lunch. Also, the last thing I feel like doing after work is cooking or preparing a meal. And it also saves me time in the mornings since I don't have to prepare a green smoothie to take to work in my thermos in addition to my lunch.

What better solution than to have my one quart--yes, that's right, 4 cups--of green smoothie as my evening meal? All I have to do is blend and I'm still getting my greens as well as eating raw. Plus, Jim hadn't been drinking green smoothies due to lack of time, so this solution helps him as well.

So far, we've been doing it for three weeks now and it has been working out great. We have our smoothies between 6:30 and 7pm, with plenty of time to digest before we exercise at 8:30pm.

This might be a great solution for you, if you have been thinking about incorporating green smoothies into your diet. Just make it a meal replacement instead.

Power to the Greens mix (from Trader Joe's), avocado, pineapple juice,
water, banana, frozen mango, maca powder, bee pollen

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Eating Vegan on the Road

To help combat my homesickness bouts, which have flared up again lately, we're trying to go home more to Michigan to visit family and friends. This inevitably leads to us thinking about food and what to eat on the road. But it's not that difficult, it just takes a little planning.

Home, sweet, home!

We always make sure our hotel room has a refrigerator because we take homemade muesli and travel-size soy milk for breakfast.

The last trip we took we made a huge salad of whatever was left in the refrigerator that would spoil while we're gone: baby spinach, cucumbers, carrots, onions, celery, leftover barley and rice, and avocado. We used lemon juice, sea salt, and pepper as dressing since we have found that, since being vegan for over five years now, we prefer the taste of the vegetables to the taste of dressing covering the vegetables.

Familiar landmarks

I also had 3 avocado to use so I made a quick guacamole with fresh lime juice and sea salt; if you leave the pit in the bowl, it hastens the oxidizing process which turns the guacamole from green to brown. Note: it's still good even if it's brown, it just doesn't look as pretty but tastes exactly the same. We enjoyed this with some blue corn chips from Trader Joe's.

Along with some apples and Jim's homemade scones, this food lasted us for three meals! So it saved some money.

Abandoned train station, Detroit

Another option since the Ohio Turnpike has those very convenient plazas is to eat at Panera. Unfortunately, we can only eat one sandwich on their menu (sans cheese, of course!): the Mediterranean Veggie. Personally, I don't care for their salads or their bagels and bread. I would love to see a vegetarian restaurant option on the Turnpike but I know that will never happen. When you're traveling, you want to eat good, whole foods, not processed, fried foods that wear on your body!

You know you're home when you see Joumana

Once in Michigan, we always make time for one meal at the Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak. And, when visiting relatives, we always stop and pick up lunch to go at the amazing fresh food bar at Whole Foods in either Troy or Rochester Hills.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

So What About Exercise?

Music: Motown mix on my Macbook

I talk mostly about food and being vegan on this blog but one thing I've never talked about is how I exercise. Yes, I do exercise, every single day. The only time I don't is when I'm sick (which is rarely) and, even then, I'll do some stretching and/or yoga.

Since I took ballet for twelve years during my childhood, daily movement of any kind is important to me. My body just doesn't feel "right." In fact, many years ago, I was sick with the flu for an entire week and, by the end of it, I think I did something like two hours of yoga because my body couldn't get enough stretching and breathing.

So what do I do? Twice a day I do a DVD workout called Synergetics. It's a balance, flexibility, and muscle contraction exercise with some aerobic and stretching components as well. It's only 12 minutes twice a day. I've been doing this every day since 1994.

Walking around Oakland, in Pittsburgh

I also take a walk because I love to be outside. During my workweek, I walk for 20 minutes around the entire city block where the library, museums, and music hall are. On weekends, in nice weather, this is upped to 40-60 minutes.

Trail at Clear Creek State Park, PA

On cold weather days--because I hate feeling cold and do not like to walk in windy weather--I'll just do another Synergetics workout on the weekend or walk in the museums during the workweek.

At home or on vacation, I still do my Synergetics workout but I also try to walk as much as possible. If the weather is fine, I will walk all around Mt. Washington to do my errands (library, post office, and hair salon to name a few)--the steep hills add even more to my workout. Some weekends, Jim and I will head to a state park and hike for hours. And, on vacation, I love nothing better than to get to my destination and park the car for the entire trip; on foot is also the best way I get to know my way around a place.

So that's it. That's all I do. I've never been a runner or an aerobics fitness devotee so you won't find me jumping and sweating profusely. Not my thing.

How about you? What is your exercise routine?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Vegetable Pie

Valses Poeticos by Enrique Granados 

Pie doesn't always have to mean dessert. In fact, since my sweet tooth has pretty much disappeared, the last thing I want around the house is a fattening and sweet dessert.

I have fond memories of my mother's chicken pies when I was a child so I thought a vegetable version might be just the thing for a cold winter's day.

Jim's Vegetable Pie with a salad

Jim had made a pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving, but he had only needed one of the two pie crusts in the package, so I asked him to make something with the second one. This is the delicious creation he came up with, very loosely adapted from Dreena Burton's Broccoli-Mushroom-Walnut Phyllo Pie (in the book Vive le Vegan!):

1 organic whole grain pie crust, frozen
2- 2 1/2 C of broccoli florets, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 C sweet onion, diced
2-2 1/2 C white or cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp tamari
2-3 Tbsp soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 C bread crumbs (Jim made his with two day old bread; RESERVE 2 Tbsp FOR TOPPING)
1 C pecans, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried mustard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil. Add onions, salt, pepper, oregano, & mustard. Cover & let cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broccoli, mushrooms, garlic, & tamari & cook another 5 minutes, stirring until broccoli is just tender.

Remove from heat. Pour mixture into a food processor & chop vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Add milk, vinegar, nutmeg, & bread crumbs then process a bit more. Add pecans last & pulse again until just mixed. MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT BLENDING; you want texture.

Pour mixture into a frozen pie crust & sprinkle 2 reserved Tbsp of bread crumbs on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until pie turns golden.

This is even excellent a few days later as the spices seemed to blend even more, just like a good soup.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sprouted Quinoa

Music: Doris Day on shuffle on the Macbook

We're starting to experiment more with sprouting. It's just another way we're trying to get more raw foods into our daily lifestyle.

I mix the quinoa with lots of different chopped and/or fermented vegetables, whatever I happen to have on hand: cucumbers, radishes, onions, olives, carrots, celery, beets, avocado, leftover greens. I'll add some sea salt or gomashio and perhaps a little toasted sesame oil or tamari.

It's surprisingly easy to sprout quinoa:

Take 1 C quinoa (any kind; Jim likes the tri-colored because it's pretty) and rinse throughly in a fine sieve. Place in a bowl and add two to three times as much water. Let sit for 20-30 minutes.

Drain and rinse again. Place back into bowl & cover with plate. Let sit overnight. In the morning, rinse again and drain very well. You'll notice that it has sprouted as tiny little tails will have appeared; this also happens when you cook it so you know it's ready.

Place in a sealable container with lid and store in the refrigerator and use within 3 days. If you want, you can put it back into the bowl and let it sit for a few more hours to soften more (& then rinse & drain) but, if you do, once you place it in the refrigerator, you should eat it within a day or two. Enjoy in salads or alone with spices. It has a chewy texture and a nutty flavor.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Inn Season Cafe, Royal Oak, Michigan

Music: Sunday Baroque, on WQED

Back home in Michigan, I lived in Royal Oak, and my favorite restaurant happened to be a vegetarian restaurant. (Notice I didn't say vegan, as they do serve dairy). The Inn Season Cafe (or just the Inn Season for short) has been in the same location in Royal Oak since 1981(tucked in a residential neighborhood a few blocks from the bustling downtown) and is one of the gems of the metro Detroit area. I've been eating here since I first moved to Royal Oak in 1993 and every time I go home again, I make sure I make time to savor a meal there.

This is what we enjoyed on our last visit:

Hummus with greens (mixed in!), pitas with herbs on top,
marinated mushroom salad, beets, olives and more greens 

Quinoa salad with fresh sprouts, greens, & avocado

It's gourmet in that it's all original, fresh, and delicious, but it's not pretentious or expensive. It's just plain good whole food that's good for you. Everyone I've recommended it to has raved about it and visited again, even my meat eating friends. My favorite feature of the menu is the Chef's Specials where they create special seasonal dishes (like the ones we enjoyed pictured above).

I have not found a restaurant like this here in Pittsburgh; Zenith in South Side* and Quiet Storm in Friendship* are more like diners that serve good but unspectacular food. My restaurant of choice here is a Middle Eastern place in South Side called Kassab's which, while not vegetarian, serves delicious vegan options.

The Inn Season's gardens, along the side of the restaurant

The service at the Inn Season is wonderful and everyone is very friendly and accommodating. The atmosphere is elegant and cozy, with wood antique tables, unique and one-of-a-kind china tea cups for coffee and tea, and cloth napkins. And their homemade chai tea (hot or cold) is to die for. The last time I was here they softly played Motown music that just seemed right as I'm still terribly homesick. 

It's located off a side street in downtown Royal Oak, which is about 12 miles north of Detroit. If you're ever in southeast Michigan, I highly recommend you make the Inn Season Cafe a stop for lunch or dinner whether you're a vegetarian or not. You won't be disappointed.

*These are neighborhoods within the city limits of Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh is known geographically by its neighborhoods.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Green Smoothies

My daily greens, with a sprinkling of bee pollen on top

Today's post was prompted by questions about my green smoothies, so I'm happy to write about something I drink every single day.

I drink green smoothies (instead of green juice made in a juicer) because I want more greens in my daily lifestyle. This way, I know I'm getting them even if I don't get a chance to eat other greens or a salad in my day.

I also want the fiber that's left when you blend the ingredients; juicers remove this fiber. This is not to say that there are no benefits to green juice; you get more concentrated nutrients in juice. I just prefer smoothies to juice.

I first learned about green smoothies in 2009 when I attended Jill Ovnik's vegan retreat in South Haven, Michigan. She invited many speakers and one of them, Susan Milliron, spoke about the benefits of raw foods and green smoothies. She demonstrated how to make them and gave out taste samples. I was intrigued and curious to try them. So, since then, I drink them every day; when I don't have them or miss a day (which is rare), I feel like something's missing in my body.

When I make them, I use about 2 large handfuls (perhaps about 2 cups? I've never measured) of greens. My favorites are parsley, baby spinach, and collard greens. I have used kale but usually I mix it up with one of my three favorites which are not as strong. Sometimes, I will also toss in about a 1/4 C of herbs such as dill, cilantro, or basil, usually to use them up when I've had leftovers from a recipe--and you know you always do because they sell herbs in big bunches in the grocery store when all you sometimes need is 2 tablespoons or so! I have read that you should change up the greens every day but that it's okay to use the same fruit if you have a favorite.

They are delicious and I'm not just saying that. The secret is the fruit. You might need to add a little sweetener (such as dates, honey, or stevia) if your tongue is used to sweetness and you eat a lot of sweets. I've been vegan for over five years and no longer eat sweets so my taste buds have drastically changed.

Here is a typical green smoothie recipe:

2 handfuls organic baby spinach (usually I buy the bags from Trader Joe's then rinse them well)
1/4 C coconut water & slice of coconut meat (from a young coconut; when the water is fermented, this is a great probiotic)*
1 tsp bee pollen (protein superfood)*
2-3 tablets spirulina (a complete plant protein)*
1 1/2 C cold water
1 banana (for creaminess and sweetness)
1 C frozen fruit (my favorites for flavor are peaches, mango, strawberries, pineapple, or mixed berries; sometimes I'll use one fruit or several)
1 small spoon of avocado (about a 1 tbsp? avocado prevents the smoothie from foaming)

Sometimes I will also add part of a cucumber, some celery, or even an apple.

Blend all in a high speed blender until smooth. Makes between 3-4 cups. I take it to work every day in my thermos and drink it between 9:30 and 11am, between my 6:30am breakfast and my noon lunch.

*I add these as supplements; I didn't use them when I first started making green smoothies so you don't have to either. I just add them in for extra nutritional value.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


I cringe today remembering what I used to eat for breakfast before I became vegan. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day but it wasn't pretty:

Toasted Italian bread with butter and hot chocolate. Mind you, this bread was really, really white, and the hot chocolate was Quik with whole milk. Plus I ate way more than just two pieces!

Boxed cereal with skim milk. This was very expensive and I was hungry again in less than 2 hours.

Hostess Frosted Chocolate Donuts with a glass of milk. An entire box of minis or two to three regular-sized.  Yikes!

Kellogg's Pop Tarts with a glass of milk. No explanation needed.

Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, made with eggs, and milk, with the faux maple syrup and butter. I think I needed at least 8-10 pancakes to feel full.

Kellogg's Eggo Frozen Waffles. I ate two but they didn't fill me up enough.

Now what do I eat? It's always whole rolled oats in some form: muesli, granola, raw soaked oat groats, or oatmeal. Oats keep me feeling full until I drink my daily green smoothie, about 4 hours after breakfast. They are also an amazing source of soluble fiber which keeps you feeling fuller longer. Depending on the season, I'll add fresh berries in summer and sliced apples in the fall and winter. And always a tablespoon of ground flaxseed meal.

Homemade granola*

Jim makes our granola about every 10 days while I make the muesli once a week. With Jim's homemade almond milk, it's delicious AND filling.

Homemade muesli (aka practically raw cereal)

We even make the granola into breakfast wraps with banana, coconut milk yogurt, & peanut butter on millet flax tortillas.

Jim's Granola
5 c whole rolled oats
1 C any nut (pecan, walnut, hazelnut) chopped
1/2 C raw sunflower seeds
1/4 C cacao nibs
1/4 C any other seed (sesame, hemp, pumpkin, etc.)
1/2 C dates packed tightly (obviously, remove pits)
1/2 C warm water
1/3 C brown rice syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
Pinch of sea salt

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In high speed blender, combine dates, water, & brown rice syrup & blend until smooth. Pour liquid over dry mix and stir to combine. Spread on lightly oiled baking sheets and bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, then bake for another 10-15 minutes until lightly browned. Watch carefully to prevent burning.

*Jim loves to try new recipes. This one pictured is the Cacao Nib Coconut granola from the blog, Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Recipe: Roasted Garlic & Potato Bisque

Many thanks to a co-worker for steering me to the gorgeously photographed vegan blog, Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes--what a great name!-- for this delicious (and easy!) recipe. I cannot do justice to the photos for this so you must see this blog for yourself.

I was a little shocked at first that the recipe calls for two heads of garlic but you roast them before blending them into the potatoes, coriander, and vegetable broth mixture. The result is a very creamy, smooth, and extremely flavorful soup that is perfect for the cold winter days. We enjoyed this for several nights of dinners after work with some homemade bread.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Foods I Never Heard of Until I Became Vegan

Raw oatmeal: oat groats (soaked overnight), pecans, dates,
banana, almond milk, & flaxseed meal sprinkled on top

Many people assume vegans don't get much variety in their diet with the elimination of dairy, meat, & eggs but I eat so many different things now, my mind is boggled at the things I buy and eat now that I hadn't ever heard of before.

Consider these:

  • Spirulina--used daily in my smoothies, a superfood to give me more chlorophyll
  • Quinoa--this cooks in just 15 minutes (as quickly as white rice) but is packed with fiber & protein (which white rice doesn't have)
  • Tempeh--this is a sort of gourmet soybean product as it takes a little longer to prepare
  • Seitan--this is wheat gluten but the texture resembles chicken so you can play with flavors
  • Flaxseed--this is a powerful superfood of omega 3s; also can be used as an egg replacer in baking
  • Cacao--yet another superfood; this is raw chocolate I use in my hot chocolate & granola
  • Coconut water--exactly what it says; I buy young coconuts & break them open to get the water & use in my smoothies. This is also a fabulous probiotic.
  • Coconut sugar--I don't use this but Jim does, in his coffee & also in baking; a minimally processed sweetener
  • Stevia--another minimally processed sweetener, I use sparingly in my hot chocolate (about 1/8 tsp)
  • Almond milk--soak almonds for 6-8 hours then blend with water; fresh "milk" in my muesli
  • Hemp seed nuts (also known as hemp hearts)--another superfood; I put these in granola & muesli and also salads
  • Bulgur--another grain that cooks quickly; used in tabbouleh & other Middle Eastern dishes
  • Barley--this grain takes longer to cook but is so delicious; I use it in casseroles & salads
  • Millet--yet another grain; great in cereal & breads
  • Amaranth--this is actually a seed but is used as a grain; wonderful in hot cereal
  • Muesli--this is a raw cereal I make weekly, with rolled oats, nuts, & dried fruit
  • Oat Groats--minimally processed oats; I soak them overnight in water, drain & rinse in the morning, then pulse lightly in the food processor.

Perhaps some of you have heard of these foods--I hadn't. But now I use all of them. So in addition to all the wonderful fruits and vegetables I eat, I add these foods to my lifestyle as well. And that's something I never did before.

Variety is the spice of life* and I enjoy all the variety in my diet.

*Paraphrase from William Cowper's The Task

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bolivian Quinoa Stew*

Despite the unseasonably warmer weather this weekend--in the 60s here in Pittburgh!-- this recipe looked so easy and delicious, perfect to re-heat for a busy work week. I found the recipe in the monthly co-op newsletter, The Co-operator, published by the East End Food Co-op, a surprising resource for quick and healthy recipes.


1 C quinoa, rinsed well and drained in a sieve
1 2/3 C water

Bring water and quinoa to a boil then lower to simmer for 15 minutes until water is absorbed and quinoa has sprouted "tails." Set aside.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 C onion, diced
1 C celery, diced
1/2 C carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 14 oz (or so) can of chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed
2 C vegetable broth (I use 2 C boiling water to 1 cube vegan bouillon cube)
1 26 oz container Pomi chopped tomatoes, in juice (or 2 14 oz cans other canned tomatoes)
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 bay leaf (optional--I never have this so I always omit)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
minced fresh cilantro, for garnish

In large stock pot, saute onion, celery, carrot, garlic & green pepper in oil until onion is translucent. Add rest of ingredients (EXCEPT vinegar & cilantro), stir, bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with 2-3 tbsp quinoa topped with cilantro. Add some whole grain bread (preferably toasted!). Enjoy.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sweet & Spicy Raw Dessert Balls*

Music: Christmas songs on shuffle on my iPod.

(Mostly) raw, delicious, and filled with super foods! And best of all, very easy to make.

10 dates, pitted
6 tbsp sunflower seeds (or any other nut: walnut, pecan, almond, etc.)
2 tbsp cacao nibs
4 tbsp shredded raw coconut
4 tbsp flax OR chia seeds
1 tbsp brown rice syrup (OR raw honey)
1 tbsp raw coconut oil
Dash of cayenne pepper
2-3 pinches of salt

We halved the above recipe but left the amount of cacao nibs (2 tbsp) the same for a more chocolate-y taste.

--Place all dry ingredients (EXCEPT cayenne & salt) in food processor and blend until powder consistency.
--Add dates, cayenne, salt, and blend again.
--Add syrup & coconut oil and blend again.
--Roll into balls, place on place in freezer to solidify. Store in freezer.

Optional: roll in cacao powder or serve plain. Close your eyes and savor...

*Adapted from Radiance Central.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Music: Cecilia String QuartetDvořák: String Quartet #13, 6 Cypresses, 2 Waltzes

2012 has been a year of getting more comfortable in what still feels like a new place to me. I can find my way around Pittsburgh now without getting lost--as long as all my routes are open. 

SouthSide Works, Pittsburgh
Here's a recap of my year:

The Good:

My health. I've been vegan for five years now and I would never, ever go back to eating animals again. We also strive to eat something raw with every meal and, last summer, ate almost exclusively raw with help from our CSA as well as the East End Food Co-op in Point Breeze. Life free of stomachaches, high blood pressure, common seasonal illnesses, insomnia, and prescription drugs is wonderful.

My finances. Since moving to Pittsburgh over two years ago, we have managed to live on only one income. This has resulted in a savings of almost 40% of our income.

Enjoying cultural events in the city. We've taken advantage of some wonderful music and cultural events, from free music performances at the library, to shows by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. We've also visited downtown's Light Up Night events. And we have  found some good restaurants for those rare occasions when we eat out: Ali Baba in Oakland and Kassab's in Southside.

New Diversions:

Becoming more comfortable & confident in my job. I still can't believe I work at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in the Reference Services department, one of the most highly respected positions (in my opinion); I feel honored. I get to do fun things like order books, answer all kinds of questions, do chat reference, play with e-reader devices (like an iPad, a Nook Tablet, & Kindle Fire), try out new services (such as Zinio for free magazines and Freegal for free music), and write for the library's award-winning blog, all in a day's work!

Jim earned his MBA. After going to school for both his Bachelor's degree and his MBA for eight years, I'm looking forward to more husband attention in 2013. 

Thankfully, the next part isn't as long as the first. Things are looking up!

The Not-So-Good:

Difficulty making new friends. It doesn't help that I'm not a late-night person, that I'm vegan, have no children, am in my forties, and work full-time. I am instead focusing on keeping my Michigan friendships and making sure I don't lose them.

Missing Michigan and that sense of 'home.' It still doesn't feel like home here; it feels like I'm on an extended visit. It's hard to explain. When I visit Michigan twice a year, I'm comfortable with the oh-so-familiar. People ask me for directions and I don't even have to think about it. 

Michigan will always be home
What I Hope to Accomplish in 2013:

Arrange with an attorney to set up a revocable living trust, durable power of attorney for health care, and financial power of attorney. I just wrote about this for the library's blog.

Set a schedule for posting to this blog. Just like I have deadlines for the library's blog, I need to do the same with my own personal blog.

Visit historic places I'm now closer to. We already have a trip planned to Jefferson's Monticello, but I also hope to see Old City Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Gettysburg, and Mount Vernon