This quick-and-easy Strawberry Chia Jam intensifies the strawberry flavor while being healthier than most of the jams on the market.  It’s one of those gorgeously-simple foods.  The texture (as written) is a cross between a jam and a sauce, making it super versatile, but it’s easily made firmer by the addition of another Tablespoon of chia seeds.  I chose to make this jam with strawberries because strawberries already have tiny seeds, but you can choose any fruit you like.  The way I made it, it can be spread on toast, spooned over vegan yogurt or cheesecake, drizzled on oatmeal, stirred into lemonade, dolloped on strawberry shortcake, etc.  I froze some  so I could preserve the flavor of Spring.


Makes enough to fill two 8-ounce jars and then some

3 Cups chopped fruit
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice  (yes, fresh tastes better)
1/3 Cup organic sugar
1 Tablespoon chia seeds  (or 2 if you want it thicker)

Wash and prepare fruit, cutting away any bad parts, leaves and stems.  Leave berries otherwise whole and add them to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, until fruit breaks down and gives off syrupy liquid.  Mash the fruit with a potato masher, or if you don’t have one, the bottom of a canning jar or heavy glass tumbler.  Leave lumps, so it’s rustic and beautiful.  Stir in lemon juice and sugar.  Taste it to make sure it’s to your liking.  Stir in chia seeds.  Let it sit and cool, and try to not to eat it out of the pot.  Use within a week, or freeze.

NOTES:  This recipe is flexible, but these measurements above really hit the spot for us.  If using larger fruit, pit and chop it.  Next time, I’ll add the zest of the lemon.  The health benefits of chia are many–fully digestible and energy-boosting, they were an important food for the Incas centuries ago.  Chia adds antioxidants, fiber, protein, omega-3s and calcium to foods, while not interfering with the flavor of the main ingredient.  While this jam is not sugar-free, the chia seeds make you feel more satiated.  For another chia recipe, try my Chia Fresca.  And if you’re a real health nut, there’s also Chia Breakfast Porridge.  There is also a great Quick Freezer Jam on this site, that uses agar agar as a thickening agent.  Other related recipes include Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.

Vegan Sweet and Sour Sauce

     This Vegan Sweet and Sour Sauce is quick, easy and delicious.   Sweetened with pineapple juice and colored with ketchup, it’s a bit healthier than the store-bought stuff.  I made this to go with the Whole Foods 365 Chickenless Nuggets, but it’s also good on vegan egg rolls, battered and fried tofu, etc.  More photos below.


2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 Cup sugar
6 ounces pineapple juice
2 Tablespoons ketchup  (for color)
1/4 Cup white vinegar
1/4 Cup water
2 teaspoons Tamari or soy sauce

Put cornstarch and sugar in small saucepan and dry whisk together.  Add rest of ingredients, and on medium heat, stir often and bring to a simmer.  Stirring constantly now, continue to simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes, until it thickens and becomes glossy.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Store in fridge, where it will thicken a bit more.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Notes:  If you must, you can add 2 drops red food coloring to make it look like Chinese-restaurant sauce.  Whisking the dry ingredients first prevents the cornstarch from clumping.  You can buy the pineapple juice in packs of six-ounce cans.
  I buy the pineapple juice in a pack of 6 oz. cans.
  So good!

Easy Cold Brew Coffee in A Mason Jar

img_3207     With all the Cold Brew coffee on grocery store shelves and in coffee shops, I can never find any decaf cold brew.  I also wanted something without syrups in it.  So after combining tips from several youtube videos, here’s an easy way to get smooth, delicious cold brew at home without any fancy equipment.  This quick method makes a smooth concentrate that you can dilute with water, ice or any plant milk.  I like coconut creamer in mine, and about 1/2 teaspoon of agave syrup.  This will last about a month in the fridge.  More photos below.


Makes about a quart

3/4 Cup freshly-ground coffee beans

For cold brew, we want a medium grind.  I have the simplest little old $20 Krups coffee grinder that I also use for spices.  Place the beans in the Krups and pulse 12 times for a basic medium grind, waiting about one second between each pulse.  This might look a little bit coarser than you’re used to, but don’t worry about it.

Place grinds in jar and add filtered water, filling it almost to the top, stopping when the water is about 1 inch below the jar threads.  Place lid firmly on jar and tilt/invert jar gently a couple of times to mix the grinds with water.  Place jar in fridge for at least 16 hours, up to 24 hours.

Now strain the brew a couple of times.  The first time, strain through a sieve to get out the large particles.  When straining, tip the jar gently and slowly so as to leave most of the saturated grinds sludge on the bottom of the jar.  The second straining can be done through a paper coffee filter, changing the filter once or twice when the dripping slows way down, but be warned this is a bit time consuming.  Cheesecloth might be faster but you also might wind up with some tiny fibers in the coffee, not sure.  What I do is filter it through a nylon nut-milk bag and it’s done in 15 seconds.  There are many nut milk bags to choose from on

Notes:  I prefer freshly-ground organic coffee for smoothest flavor.
img_3196  This Medium grind was achieved by PULSING a simple Krups coffee grinder 12 times.
img_3198  After chilling in fridge for 16 hours, there’s a thick “sludge” at the bottom.”  You will carefully strain the cold brew, while trying not to disturb this sludge.  This is about how full the jar should be.
img_3201  First strain.
img_3203  Second strain.  If you don’t have a nut milk bag, or cheesecloth, dampen a paper coffee filter and use that.  It will be slow, and you will have to change the filter once or twice.  Do other things while it’s dripping.  Unbleached coffee filters are best.


IMG_2951     There are quite a few vegan key lime pie recipes out there, but none were ever quite perfect for me.  The no-bake ones tasted of cornstarch, or I couldn’t get the vegan pudding packets required, etc.  So after a couple of tries, here’s one that’s really delicious, with easy-to-get ingredients.  It’s got that balance of sweet-to-pucker, it’s easy, and it’s pretty.  As with many cream pies, you make it the day before, so it’s perfect for a dinner party


Makes one pie, approx. 8-10 slices

3 medium-size regular limes, organic  (enough to yield 1/2 Cup fresh lime juice)
8 oz. vegan cream cheese  (I used Trader Joe’s)
12 oz. box Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, Extra-Firm, pressed
1 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons zest from the limes, plus more for grating on top
2 drops green food coloring (optional)
9-inch vegan graham cracker pie crust  (Keebler has one that’s accidentally vegan)
vegan whipped topping, such as coconut whipped cream, or So Delicious Coco Whip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Zest the limes and reserve 1/3 of the zest for garnish on top of the pie.  Juice two of the limes and see if it comes to 1/2 Cup of lime juice.  If not, juice the third lime.  In a food processor, mix cream cheese, tofu, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, lime juice and 2 teaspoons of the lime zest.  Mix well, add green food coloring and mix again.  Pour into crust, place on baking sheet and bake 35 minutes.  It might jiggle just a bit when you take it out of the oven–that’s okay.  Let cool on rack.  Refrigerate overnight.  Grate or sprinkle fresh lime zest over the pie, and serve with vegan whipped cream.  When you cut it, rinse or wipe your knife between slices.  It cuts even better after two days in the fridge.

Notes:  Depending on the depth of your crust, there might be about 1/3 Cup extra filling, that you can cook alongside the pie in a ramekin (for a pudding snack) if desired.  If you don’t have a food processor, a hand mixer would probably do just fine.  The color of the pie will deepen a bit upon cooking.  Do not add extra vanilla, because it will muddy the green color.  Bottled lime juice does not taste as good as fresh–I tried it.  Mori-Nu silken tofu in the box is what is called aseptic packaging, see photo below.
IMG_2875  Silken tofu in an aseptic box.

Easy Blueberry Sauce

IMG_2946     If you have a bumper crop or windfall of extra blueberries, you could freeze them for smoothies or pies, or you can make this fabulous easy blueberry sauce.  It can be used on pancakes, or vegan ice cream, stirred into vegan cream cheese for bagels, swirled into vegan cheesecake batter, etc.


Makes about one pint

2-1/2 Cups fresh blueberries, washed
1/3 Cup plus 3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
lemon zest from one lemon  (optional)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set aside 1/2 Cup of the blueberries, and the vanilla.  In a blender, add all other ingredients and blend until fairly smooth.  In a small saucepan, stirring often over medium heat, bring blueberry mixture to a boil.  Immediately turn heat down a click or two, and add reserved blueberries.  Cook at a low boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Stir in vanilla, let cool, and chill.  Use or freeze.

Notes:  If you let the raw blended mixture sit around without cooking it, it could clump, maybe from the pectin.  If that happens, you can re-blend or use a potato masher.

Easy Vegan No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie

IMG_2860     This is kind of the perfect peanut butter pie, adapted from a recipe called Creamy Peanut Butter Pie, on the Mori-Nu web site.  I simply made it no-bake, switched out the honey, and used a store-bought crust.   It only takes about 15 minutes to make, although it does have to chill in the fridge overnight.  The texture holds together well, but it’s silky and pudding-like.  It’s so decadent that you’ll have to reassure people it doesn’t have dairy or eggs in it.


8-10 servings

graham cracker pie crust  (Keebler Ready Crust is accidentally vegan)
1 package Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, extra firm
8 oz. vegan cream cheese  (I like Trader Joe’s)
2/3 Cup vegan cane sugar
1/2 Cup organic creamy no-stir peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup  or  agave syrup
chocolate syrup for drizzling  (optional)

Place all ingredients in a food processor, puree until smooth, and pour into crust.  Chill in fridge overnight.  If desired, serve with dollops of Coconut Whipped Cream, and drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Tips:  It’s possible that this would NOT work with one of those natural peanut butters where you have to stir in the oil–I don’t know.  I had good success with organic no-stir creamy peanut butter.  I used O Organics brand.  Maranatha also makes a good organic no-stir creamy peanut butter.  This would also be a great recipe for kids since it’s no-bake.

Chana Masala or Chole Masala

IMG_2657     Popular in Northern India and Pakistan, chana or chole (cho-lay) masala is made in a variety of ways.  It can be cooked on the dry side, or with a sour tang, but here I’ve made it richer with lite coconut milk, and served it with a spoonful of mango chutney for a sweet/hot finish.  Serve over fragrant rice, with naan or pappadums, etc.  I love the hint of cinnamon and other floral notes in Garam Masala, which can be found in most grocery stores in the regular spice section.  I’ve added a few other spices to round out the chana-spice flavor profile.  Canned chickpeas make this a more-convenient weeknight supper, but it’s delicious enough for company.  Please check out the Indian Category on this site for other recipes, including Dal Makhani and a Hawaiian Coconut Curry.


Makes about six servings

2 Tablespoons coconut oil,  or vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
one medium onion, diced
1 Tablespoon finely-grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons garam masala spice blend
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon amchoor  (amchur, dried mango powder)  (optional)

1 Tablespoon tamarind paste  (optional)
1 large tomato seeded and diced
15 oz. can lite coconut milk  (or water)
2  (15-oz.) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

chutney, such as Patak’s Mango Chutney (found in many regular grocery stores)

In a medium-to-large saucepan or small stockpot, heat oil over medium heat.  Stir in onion and ginger, and turn heat down a click.   Cook until onions are beginning to brown, stirring often.  Stir in spices and garlic, and cook for about one minute, stirring constantly.  Add tamarind (if using), tomato, coconut milk and garbanzos, and simmer for a few minutes.  Stir in salt.  With a potato masher, mash at least half the chickpeas, so the mixture begins to look finer and thicker.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 15-20 minutes.   Pick out the cloves and discard them.  Add a teaspoon of chutney on each serving, and serve with naan bread, pappadums, Basmati rice, etc.  When reheating, I stir in a little water for better consistency.  Can be made a day ahead.

NOTES:  My favorite brand of tamarind paste is CTF “Pure Fresh Tamarind,” it comes in a 14 oz. plastic jar with blue label and blue lid.  Chole (cho-lay) means chickpea curry,  and Chana means chickpeas or white garbanzos (as opposed to black).  I like the Garam Masala spice blend from Penzeys, but any will do.  If tomatoes are out of season, I would not hesitate to use a can of chopped tomatoes drained well.
IMG_2670  Instead of using a thickener, just mash some of the chickpeas like some Indian cooks do.

IMG_2668  My favorite brand of tamarind paste.

Vegan Raspberry Oat Shortbread

IMG_2593     This Vegan Raspberry Oat Shortbread is buttery, with a light crunch from the oats and almonds, and sweetness from the raspberry jam.  This is more of a delicate shortbread–amazing with tea, or any time.  Other raspberry bars on this site include Ottolenghi Raspberry Oat Bars (thicker and nuttier with a touch of caramel), and plain Raspberry Oat Bars (more of a rustic crumble bar).  Yes, it would seem I have a thing for raspberry bars. . .


Makes:  16 squares

1 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon cold vegan butter (Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
3/4 Cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 Cup slivered almonds
1/4 Cup raspberry jam  (I like Dickinson’s Red Raspberry)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/16th teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter an 8-inch baking pan and put it in the fridge.  Mix the jam with the vanilla and almond extracts, stirring until it’s a somewhat smooth consistency, and then leave it out at room temperature.  In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt.  Then add oats and pulse a few times.  Cube the vegan butter and add it, pulsing until the mixture starts to cling together in bits.  Then add almonds and pulse just until incorporated.  The idea is NOT to grind up the almonds–you just want them in pieces throughout the dough. We also do NOT want to overwork the dough, it’s going to be a bit crumbly.

Set aside 1/2 Cup of the dough.  Press the rest GENTLY but evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Spread the raspberry jam evenly over the dough, leaving at least a 1/4 inch-wide border (in other words, do not spread the jam all the way to the edges).  Sprinkle the reserved dough evenly over the jam.

Bake until the edges are starting to turn golden, about 20-23 minutes.  Within 5-10 minutes, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen.  You can also make your cuts after about 10 minutes, cutting straight down (do not use a sawing motion).  The end of a thin flat spatula works well for this.  The shortbread will firm as it cools.  Store in fridge, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Notes:  This recipe took me three tries to get right.  I started out adding fresh raspberries but the end result was then too gooey and wet.  I pressed the dough too firmly in the pan and it was hard to cut into squares, and a bit tough.  I also found that for best results, it kind of matters in which order you process the dough ingredients.
IMG_2588  Leave the edges of the dough bare, as the jam will spread on its own.

Vegan Brandied Cherry Sauce

cherry sauce     I created this easy and delicious vegan Brandied Cherry Sauce specifically for the Daiya New York Cheezecake I was serving at a small dinner party.  This sauce can easily be made without the alcohol too.  And because we’re using frozen cherries, it can be made in any season.  Also, if you want organic–it’s possible to find frozen organic cherries, while it can be difficult to find fresh organic cherries.  This would also be good on a vegan Black Forest Cake.


Makes enough for the top of a cheesecake or black forest cake.

10 oz. bag frozen cherries
1/3 Cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon scant fine sea salt
2 Tablespoons Kirschwasser  (or water)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

In small saucepan, dry whisk sugar, cornstarch and sea salt.  Add Kirschwasser or water, and stir.  Add cherries and cook over medium heat, stirring often until thickened and bubbly.  Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.  Add extracts and stir to combine.

Note:  It takes 15 or 20 minutes for this to thicken up, so I make this while I’m working near the stove, so I can stir it often.  I used Dekuyper brand Kirschwasser.  If you can find Oregon brand Dark Sweet Cherries in the 15 oz. can, they are a good substitute for frozen cherries, but remember to drain them first, and discard the can liquid.

Vegan Coconut Pecan Frosting for German Chocolate Cake

german chocolate cake     This vegan Coconut Pecan Frosting for German Chocolate Cake is directly from that fabulous recipe site, VegWeb.  It’s so good, and it’s easy!  Please note that this is really only enough for one layer of cake, and I have not tried doubling the recipe.  It would also be great on a pan of brownies.  The classic recipe for this frosting calls for four egg yolks and 12 ounces of evaporated milk.   No need.


Makes enough for one 9-inch layer of cake, or a pan of brownies

1.5 Cups sweetened flake coconut
1 Cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
1 stick Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
3/4 Cup vegan sugar
1/2 Cup non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium-to-large saucepan put all ingredients except vanilla.  Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 12 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat, and immediately stir in vanilla.  Let cool for a few minutes, and then pour on cake and spread while frosting is still warm and pliable.  Let set up for a few minutes before serving.  Supposedly, it sets up faster if you cover it and place it in the fridge, but I found this unnecessary.

Notes:  In my opinion, this is really only enough to frost one layer of cake.  I have not tried doubling the recipe.  Measure out one Cup of pecan halves and then roughly chop them.  I used WestSoy Organic Unsweetened Plain Soymilk.


IMG_2104     We had frozen “Limonana” (Lemonana) at Dizengoff in Philadelphia recently and I was struck by the herbal flavor of it, and by how well it went with their very excellent hummus.  Lemonana is basically lemonade with a generous dose of mint, and it’s been called the national drink of Israel.  This aint your Grandma’s lemonade–it’s assertively tart with a divine herbal edge.  It can be made in a good variety of ways, but I know they make a mint syrup at Dizengoff, and they choose to serve it frozen.  I looked at a bunch of Lemonana online and developed this easy recipe, which tastes a lot like the one at Dizengoff.  I’m convinced, however, that Dizengoff uses a secret ingredient–some savory herb or something.  I’ll be trying that in future, but in the meantime, this is so good and refreshing that I’m satisfied.


Serves:  2 to 3

Mint Syrup
1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
1.5 oz. fresh mint
Combine water and sugar in a very small saucepan and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and wait 10 minutes for the syrup to cool slightly.  Stir in fresh mint, cover and let steep for 15-30 minutes.  Remove and discard mint leaves or strain syrup through a mesh sieve and allow to come to room temperature.  Store in a sealed glass jar or bottle in refrigerator for up to one month.

1/2 Cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup water
2/3 Cup mint syrup
2 drops orange blossom water  (optional)
20-30 ice cubes

To a blender, add lemon juice, water, mint syrup and orange blossom water, and stir.  Add ice and blend until frozen, adding a little more ice if necessary.  Taste.

Notes:  My ice cubes are those smaller crescent-shaped ice “cubes” that come out of an ice dispenser in my freezer.  You may need more ice than this, unless you’re using the old-fashioned, big rectangular ice cubes.  Any leftover mint syrup can also be used in iced tea, of course.  To save time, make mint syrup ahead and have it well chilled.  Two photos of Dizengoff below.  Dizengoff has a cult following for their hummus and their pita bread.

Vegan Tofu Ricotta

IMG_2081     If you have a block of tofu and a jar of capers in the house, you’re all set for this easy, delicious vegan ricotta spread.  We recently had dinner at Charlie was a sinner. restaurant in Philadelphia and loved it.  Our favorite dish was a chargrilled Caesar salad, but we also really liked their house-made “ricotta with agave, black peppercorn and olive oil”  served with grilled bread.  The waitperson said it was made of “whipped tofu.”  My version below is adapted from Tofu Ricotta Crostini by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg.  It’s good, easy and  versatile, and would be great for an appetizer.  Alongside a salad, it would also be good for lunch or dinner.  If you’re looking for other starter ideas, check out the appetizer category on this site.


Serves 4-6

14 oz. block of firm organic tofu, drained well  (not pressed)
2 Tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon Nutritional Yeast
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, or some fancy pepper
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, pressed, or crushed and minced
1 to 2  teaspoons fresh lemon juice
baguette to grill, or crackers

In a medium mixing bowl, break up tofu with a fork until it’s the consistency of ricotta cheese.  Scrape 3/4 of this mixture into a food processor, along with the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper.  Pulse until smooth and then scrape the processed tofu back into the crumbled tofu in the mixing bowl, add capers and stir to blend.  In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat for a couple of minutes and then sauté garlic for a minute or two, just until golden.  Add tofu mixture to pan, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, add lemon juice and stir to mix.  Top with a drizzle of good olive oil, and a sprinkle of your best salt (I used homemade basil salt).

Notes:  Some changes I made were to use the entire block of tofu, and to whip part of it for the creamier consistency of the restaurant dish I had.  I also reduced the initial oil and salt and then added a little more at the end to finish.  This recipe can be flavored any which way.  You could add a teaspoon of agave syrup when processing, and then top with thin slices of grilled fig or dried date,  or candied pecans, or toasted pistachio nuts.  Or use preserved lemon when you process, for a deeper lemon flavor.   On canapés, you could top it with slices of pear, or fruit compote, with shards of coconut bacon, etc.  It could even be used to enhance avocado toast.
IMG_2048  One photo from Charlie was a sinner.

Zippys Chili Recipe Gone Vegan

IMG_1881    My parents called from Hawaii yesterday, and they had just been to Zippys for breakfast.  It reminded me that I used to like Zippys chili (it’s famous in Hawaii).  After looking at copycat recipes online, I made a vegan version, and it’s really good–a keeper.  Although I’ve made several vegan chilis before, this one is just a bit meatier and richer than the others, and it really does remind me of Zippys.  I could see serving this easy dish for the Superbowl, or any game day.  If you want a healthier vegan chili, try this Perfect Vegetable Chili with Quinoa.  I like to serve chili with these Fruited Cornbread Muffins, or Tostitos Original Restaurant Style chips, Tofutti Cream Cheese, fresh avocado, etc.  More photos below.


11 oz. package Beyond Beef Beefy Crumbles  (or other ground beef substitute)
15 oz. can Kidney beans, with liquid from can
15 oz. can tomato sauce
10 oz. can Ro-Tel Mild Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies  (use 1/2 can, or more to taste)
2 teaspoons peanut oil (or grapeseed oil or olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Vegenaise Reduced Fat vegan mayo  (the secret ingredient)
1 Tablespoon Better Than Bouillon (No Beef, or Vegetarian,  or No Chicken flavor)
1 Tablespoon Sherry Cooking Wine, (or red wine, or vinegar)
2 teaspoons minced dried onions  (from the spices aisle)
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire, such as Wizard brand  (it’s delicious)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt  (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
pinch cinnamon  (a pinch equals 1/16th teaspoon)

Toppings of choice, such as vegan sour cream, avocado chunks and nacho chips.

Heat oil in small stock pot, and sauté onion and bell pepper.  Set beans aside for now, but add all other ingredients and simmer on medium heat for 5 or 10 minutes.  Add beans and bean liquid just before serving and stir them gently into the chili.  Serve with vegan sour cream, fresh avocado, nacho chips, etc.

Notes:  I avoid canola oil for purposes of flavor.  I prefer Eden Organic beans because they use kombu to “salt” their beans, but any kidney beans will do.  If you want it spicier, add the full can of Ro-Tel, or the Ro-Tel can simply be put out to dollop on bowls for those who like it hotter.  The mayonnaise might seem an odd addition to this recipe but it’s rumored to be the secret ingredient in Zippys Chili, and it does seem to add an unctuous richness.  I reduced the mayo by 75% here and the chili still tastes really good.  I deleted the MSG from the original recipes, but if you want to add it back in, use about 1/2 teaspoon.  I grew up eating a lot of Ajinomoto, and I didn’t miss it here.

BAMONA, Butterflies and Moths of North America

IMG_0400     Did you know there’s a web site where you can post photos of butterflies and moths you see?  No, it’s not Instagram,  it’s BAMONA, Butterflies and Moths of North America.  With Instagram around, why would we do this?  Because it helps track our little friends, who are also very valuable pollinators.  Some think butterflies are not as effective at pollinating as bees are, but butterflies can travel longer distances, ensuring coverage of equal amounts of flowering plants in a larger area.  So, although they’re only looking for food (nectar), they actually help plants reproduce in an important way, on a larger geographic scale than bees sometimes.  Moths also pollinate and are vital.  I went over all this in episode three of the podcast by the way (the gardening episode).   Posting butterflies and moths on BAMONA is also a great activity for kids.  I caught the image above on a little Canon automatic camera in my backyard.  I realized this fritillary was larger than the tiny ones that I sometimes see, grabbed my camera and got lucky.  You can see my actual submission and another photo of this Great Spangled Fritillary here.

My latest submission to BAMONA is not a good photo–it was taken by my husband with his phone, outside a Chili’s Restaurant on a busy bypass road in Easton, Maryland.  We think he/she was drying her wings, and we didn’t want to get too close and scare her.  It was a huge Silkmoth, about the size of a coffee cup, although the photos don’t show the perspective of her size.  By the way, at Chili’s Restaurant, I got the citrus rice, black beans and sweet potato fries, in case you’re wondering, ha ha!  Anyway, outside this Chili’s, are growing several of the host plants for this gorgeous Silkmoth (the adults do not feed, but these host plants probably supported this Silkmoth when it was a caterpillar).

Caterpillar Host plants for the Cecropia silkmoth include various trees and shrubs including box elder (Acer negundo), sugar maple (Acer saccharinum), wild cherries and plums (Prunus), apples (Malus), alder and birch (Betulaceae), dogwoods (Cornus), and willows (Salix).  Luckily, outside this Chili’s Restaurant on this busy bypass, are growing some birch trees and small dogwood trees.  These are plants that were probably required by the shopping complex as part of the approved landscaping plan, and this really highlights the importance of local plantings at new developments.  We’re already destroying large swaths of habitat with these developments, so a few plantings among the sea of pavement and sidewalks are the very least we can do, and we should be doing so much more.   Anyway, a female Silkmoth laid 2 to 6 eggs on leaves of a host-plant tree or shrub, and these eggs hatched in 10-14 days, and the young caterpillars then fed on those very leaves in a perfect symphony of sustainability, especially since moths and butterflies then help to pollinate the flowers of the host plants.  Then the flowers produce berries that support bird life, and on and on.  And her work is not done, because the flight range for Silkmoths is Nova Scotia and Maine south to Florida, and/or west across Southern Canada and the Eastern United States to the Rocky Mountains.

Participating in posting and tracking butterflies and moths creates Awareness and Consciousness of caterpillars and who they become, and of the beauty around us and of how we’re all connected.  Every life is important, no matter how tiny their earthly shell!
IMG_1701   River Birch trees planted as part of the shopping complex landscaping, near the entrance to Chili’s Restaurant where we saw the above Silkmoth.   Birch are host plants for various moths and butterflies.

IMG_1703  One of two young dogwoods (host plants) outside the restaurant.

Thyme-Roasted Grapes and Cheese on Grilled Bread

IMG_1668     Thyme-Roasted Grapes and Cheese on Grilled Bread is one of those recipes that’s almost too good to be true.  Quick, easy, elegant and especially delicious.  The earliest origin of roasted grapes I could find online was around 2004.  Here, we’re using vegan cheese, because nobody has to die so we can have really good food.  Having a sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy appetizer is wonderful, but knowing it’s also good for your body and the planet and the animals is priceless!


Makes enough for 2 to 4 people, for appetizers

1 lb. seedless red grapes
2 ciabatta loaves, or a baguette
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
spreadable vegan cheese, such as Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread.  Or, Miyoko’s CreameryTreeline, etc.   Or even just Tofutti Cream Cheese (non-hydrogenated).  Any of them should work.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218 Celsius).  Line baking dish with parchment paper.  In a mixing bowl, place grapes, olive oil, sea salt and thyme, and fold gently with a wooden spoon to coat the grapes.  Tip ingredients into prepared baking dish and roast for 15 minutes or so, until grapes are a bit shriveled but still juicy.  Set aside.  Also set out your vegan cheese so it can warm up a bit while you prepare the toasts.

Slice ciabatta loaves in half the long way so you wind up with two wide/flat paddles, or if using a baguette, slice into rounds.  If grilling, brush bread with olive oil on both sides.  If baking in oven, brush oil on just the cut sides.  Grill bread 1 to 2 minutes per side–do not walk away, as it can burn quickly.  If baking bread, have oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius) and bake for about 7 minutes, keeping an eye on it.  Smear bread with vegan cheese and garnish with thyme-roasted grapes.  Serve.

Notes:  If using a good nut cheese, this can easily be a main meal, especially if served with a salad.  I used the Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread (made from almond milk) in the Chive flavor.

Vegan Hollandaise using The Vegg

IMG_0420    This quick and easy vegan Hollandaise Sauce kind of blew my mind–it was so authentically good.  I put it on asparagus, and made vegan Eggs Benedict with it, but I can see where it would be good on a variety of vegetables, or just to dip toast points in.  You whip this up in the blender–so much easier than traditional Hollandaise, and cruelty free!    p.s. This is cholesterol-free too.


Makes approximately 2 Cups

2 Tablespoons of The Vegg powder
1/4 Cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, melted
1/4 Cup Reduced Fat Vegenaise
3 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
1.5 Cups to 2 Cups hot water (not boiling)
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne, or 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (optional)

Into a blender, put 1.5 Cups of the hot water and The Vegg powder and blend until smooth.  Add in all other ingredients except the vegan butter, and blend again.  Melt butter in microwave at 10-second intervals–do not overheat the butter or it might separate.  Slowly add melted butter to blender, and blend again until glossy.  Serve.

If the Hollandaise starts to set up or get too thick, add some of the remaining water, a Tablespoon at a time.  Store in fridge.  To reheat, add a little water, heat and re-blend, or whisk in saucepan.

Notes:  To make vegan Eggs Benedict, extra-firm Silken tofu is good to fry up, as it has the consistency of over-easy eggs.  The Vegg really tastes and looks like egg yolks and even has that slightly-sulfury smell.  Home cooks and chefs all over the world are doing amazing things with The Vegg.  If you don’t have The Vegg, I suppose you could substitute in nutritional yeast and a bit of kala namak (black salt), but I have not tried this yet.  This recipe is adapted from this post and this post.  As I make this in future, I’ll try cutting some fat out of it, and start by reducing 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of mayo.  Should be fine.

IMG_0414  I already put this on my Instagram, but will add it here.  I prefer thicker asparagus, but make sure to peel the bottoms of the stalks with a potato peeler to remove stringy texture.  Meaty but tender.

Guatemalan Guacamole

IMG_0398    A friend who is originally from Guatemala taught me how to make this smooth guacamole.  There was no written recipe, just a hands-on lesson in the kitchen.  She had brought us some guacamole one time and I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so good, so I asked her for the recipe.  Instead of writing it down, she showed up at my house with a bag of produce.  Note that there is NO lime or lemon in this recipe, because the natural acidity of the tomatillos helps keep the guacamole from turning brown.


Makes approx. 3 Cups

6 raw tomatillos
2 avocados,  at least medium size or a bit larger
1/2 of a small bunch of cilantro, including stems, rinsed
2 jalapenos raw and whole, but stems removed
1/3 small onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup water

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Peel the papery skins off the tomatillos and rinse the tomatillos to remove any stickiness.   Boil the tomatillos and the jalapenos for three minutes.  Remove them from the pot and set them on a plate to cool.

Remove pits from avocados and reserve one or both pits for the guacamole bowl.  The pit will also help keep the guacamole from turning brown.  In a blender place all the avocado flesh and everything else, and blend just until smooth.  Delicioso!

Notes:  This recipe as written above is exactly how she makes it for her family, including her small children.  However, for our palates, I did remove the seeds from the jalapenos (after boiling them).  For another good guacamole recipe, try the chunky Chipotle Restaurant Guacamole also on this site in the Mexican Category.
IMG_0395  This photo is wrong, there is no lime.
IMG_0396  Put the avocado pit in your bowl.  Along with the acidic tomatillos, the pit will help keep the guacamole from turning brown.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

IMG_0384    The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by  Marie Kondo is a simple little book, but it can change your life.  At 224 pages, it doesn’t take long to read, and the language translated from the Japanese is easily understood.  The concepts seem deceptively simple but the impact can be great if one is open to it.    One thing that might seem unusual about Kondo’s methods is the way she acknowledges the spirit of things.  For example, she thanks her clothing when she hangs it up at end of day.  In clearing out clutter, one must hold each object to see if it “sparks joy.”  This might seem strange at first, but Kondo spent 5 years as an attendant maiden at a Shinto shrine, and this may explain the animism in her teachings.  And by holding each object, we get it out from the back of the closet or down from the shelf, and we consider why we acquired it and if we still really want it.  There are some good articles about the KonMari method, like this one in the New York Times, or this one that actually has an excerpt from the book and a little video of Marie Kondo explaining some of her organizing principles.

In America, many of us have so much STUFF that we rent storage units and we don’t know where things are anymore, so we end up buying multiples of things we already own but cannot locate.  Kondo takes exception to all this storage.  It’s one thing to store a bin or two of seasonal clothing, or holiday decorations in the attic, but the level we have taken it to is indicative of issues that need to be resolved.  And after all the clearing out, we can stop paying for things we don’t really need, stop taking care of things we don’t want, and spend more time living.  In one example, a client of Kondo’s cleared out a lot of books and realized that most of the books she had kept were about a particular subject she was passionate about, and so she changed her career.  Another little bit of magic is that supposedly, all the things you really want will fit easily into your living space.  The things that spark joy will be close at hand, respected and available to use and enjoy.

A few weeks ago, after reading Kondo’s book, I didn’t think much about it, but something in my consciousness was unlocked, and I soon got the bug.  Kondo recommends starting with your clothes, so of course I began cleaning out a large filing credenza in my office, getting rid of about 25% of the papers therein.  Then I began going through old Martha Stewart magazines (I no longer subscribe).  I cleared out 40 of them, and went into the attic and brought down the rest and stacked them all in one place.  Then I got rid of 20 more.  This was a bit time consuming, and my husband was now beginning to wonder if everything else was going to fall by the wayside as I continued on my clearing-out spree, so I put that task aside for another time, but at least the magazines are whittled down and now all in one place.  Also, I realized I had a moral obligation to recycle those magazines (not donate them), because they’re full of recipes for dead non-human animals, and so that’s what I did.  One less bin in the attic.

I’ve already returned this book to the library, but from what I can remember, Kondo recommends beginning by clearing out objects you no longer want, because this is the best way to figure out what you need.  And this involves my favorite concept from the book–amassing all like objects in one place first.  My previous method of organizing was to tackle one drawer, or one corner of a closet, etc.  However, the benefit of putting all like objects in one place is so you can SEE how much of that thing you really have.  This in turn influences how willing you will be to let go of things.  One of my best friends recently called me a minimalist.  She will now see this is not true, for I will show you an example of my most-recent lost weekend of organizing.   I decided to tackle socks.  Not my sock drawer, but socks in general, because the truth is that I sort of knew I had socks in various dresser drawers.  I would buy a pack of socks, and decide the seam was too pronounced on the toe, or that I only liked 4 of the colors in a pack of 6 pair, etc.  So, I would put the extra socks in the bottom drawer or something.  This went on for 10 years or so.  I put a clean bed sheet on top of my comforter to create a flat (and conveniently elevated) surface that would show off all the socks for the photo below.  Well, I was shocked to find I had 90 pairs of socks!  After putting some never-worn socks in the donate bag, throwing away any socks that were a bit worn or pilly, and also tossing the singles, I was left with 45 pairs of socks, and this includes footie socks, hiking socks, cotton socks, knit dress socks, etc.  I will not buy socks again for a long time and will throw them away as they wear out, bringing this number down to a more-reasonable level.  Kondo recommends using regular old cardboard shoe boxes to organize, so despite my penchant for fancy storage boxes, that’s what I did.  I also used this video to fold my underwear.  On a roll now, I next tackled all tee shirts, including tanks that I wear as undershirts in winter, and short-sleeve and long-sleeve tees.  Again, I used the handy YouTube videos for folding–this one for short sleeve, and this one for long-sleeve.  Folding is an important part of the KonMari process, you see, and I am now a Konvert.  See last photo below for tee-shirt drawer results.  Since my tee shirts had been hanging in closets, folded into drawers, and mixed in with sweaters, this process led me to organize my sweaters all into one drawer, and switch out my cold-weather clothing for warm-weather clothing.  Even Lars got into the act, and I stopped to help him organize his three big dresser drawers.  In the process of all this, I threw out things like old sachets that had lost their mojo, and 4 decrepit sports bras.  Into the donate bag went two packs of unopened panty hose (shudder) from God-knows-when.  One thing leads to another, in an inspiring way.  Where will it end?  Who knows?  I will give it some thought later, but right now, please excuse me while I go Kondo the coat closet.
IMG_0392  AFTER, with underwear on the right

Ensalada de Aguacate – Avocado Salad

IMG_0348    I love to order Ensalada de Aguacate (otherwise known as Avocado Salad) at Mexican restaurants.  However, I always wish they were a bit richer in flavor, and less oily.  Keeping the simple, perfect ingredients, the main thing was to create a more-complex vinaigrette.  After a few attempts, here’s my latest obsession.

ENSALADA de AGUACATE   (Avocado Salad)

Makes enough for three or four side salads.

1 small head iceberg lettuce
2 Hass avocados, ripe but not mushy
1/4 red onion, diced
1 medium garlic clove, pressed,  or smashed and chopped finely
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon cooking sherry
1/4 teaspoon smooth stone-ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground Cumin
1/2 teaspoon cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon scant fine sea salt  (if regular salt, use a bit less)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
(if tomatoes are in season and really good, they can be cut into chunks and added)

In a medium non-metal bowl, place garlic, oil, lime juice, sherry, mustard, cumin, sugar, salt and pepper.  Whisk until well blended.  Add diced onions to this vinaigrette, stir and set aside for the sugar and salt to further dissolve while you work.  The onion will do a quick “pickle” in the vinaigrette.

Wash, dry and chop enough lettuce into shreds.  Cover and protect shredded lettuce with a dish towel and set in fridge to prevent wilting.  When ready to serve, peel, pit and do a larger dice on the avocados, and immediately add them to the vinaigrette bowl (to prevent browning).  Using a wooden spoon, gently stir and fold the avocado cubes into the dressing/onion mixture.  As you stir, the dressing will become a bit creamier from the avocado.  Place a bed of shredded lettuce onto each plate and spoon the avocado and dressing over the center of each plate.  Let each person mix their own salad using their knife and fork.

Notes:  This classic and beautiful salad is popular in many Hispanic and Latin countries.  To stretch this salad a bit, add another avocado.


Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris

IMG_0281    If you can’t tell by my Instagram, I’m currently a bit obsessed with Superfood Smoothies  by  Julie Morris.  To date, I’ve made eleven of the smoothies from this book and am crazy about some of them.  My favorite so far is the Pistachio Cherry,  with the Lucuma Macadamia coming in at a close second.  Sometimes we want a lighter, fruity smoothie for breakfast, and then a creamy rich smoothie for an afternoon snack.  Some of these smoothies are on the level of luscious desserts but are actually good for you, body and soul.  Superfood Smoothies has opened my eyes to a whole new world of true superfood ingredients, such as Maca, Maqui, White Mulberries, Goji Berries, Hemp Protein Powder, etc.  I started out buying one superfood per week, and found them to be cost effective in that most of them had long expiration dates–some up to two years.  And a little goes a long way on most of them.  For example, even 1/4 teaspoon of camu berry powder is effective.  Each superfood is profiled in the front, with tips on what form to buy it in, how to store it and the exact benefits.  Each recipe has a row of simple graphic symbols above it, to indicate its bonus benefits (such as a little red heart for cardiovascular health).  There’s a Smoothies by Benefit Index in the back so you can tailor the smoothies to your needs, like Bone Strength, Low Calorie, Protein, etc., and all the smoothies have multiple benefits.   Julie Morris is a firm believer that smoothies must taste good, even when incorporating vegetables like beets or broccoli.   Although I juice a couple of times a week, this gorgeous book has me excited to try new smoothies.  To see more from Julie Morris, check out her other superfood cookbooks on amazon, or check out her Youtube channel.
IMG_0285  Grapefruit Pomegranate
IMG_0329  Cacao Mocha with Soyatoo Rice Whip on top
IMG_0275Orange Goji

Quick and Easy Homemade Gochujang Paste


IMG_0270    I found this quick and easy recipe for Gochujang paste here, and simply reduced the amounts, and converted them into Tablespoon and Cup measurements too.  I don’t use a lot of Gochuchang, and this will supposedly last for 6 months in the refrigerator, as long as all your ingredients have that long of a shelf life.  Most authentic recipes call for letting the Kochujang ferment at room temperature for 30 days, or covering and uncovering the paste outdoors on a daily basis, which involves a lot of salt to prevent spoilage, etc.  I looked at buying some Gochujang paste, but was put off by added ingredients like corn syrup, calcium phosphate, etc.  Some store-bought pastes also contain wheat starch in the form of  isomaltooligosaccharide, which may not be good for those who are gluten free (not sure).  By making it at home, we can also use organic miso, and organic sugar.  Use Gochujang in stir-fries, sauces, dressings and marinades–anywhere you want a little spice!  On to the brilliant little 5-minute recipe.


4 oz. mild white miso  (1/2 Cup)
1.75 oz. sugar  (3 Tablespoons)
2 oz. Tamari  (2 Tablespoons)
.88 oz. Korean red pepper powder  (1/4 Cup)
2 to 3 Tablespoons water

Dry whisk the sugar into the pepper powder.  Add miso and stir until moist and blended.  Add Tamari and stir again.  In smallest saucepan, heat mixture over medium-low to melt the sugar a bit.  Add water by the Tablespoon, and stir with a wooden spoon to blend.  Cool and put in clean glass container with lid.  Supposedly will keep in fridge for up to 6 months.  This makes enough Gochujang paste for one or two recipes, but you can double or triple the first 4 ingredients and then add a little water as needed.
A nice big bag of Korean red pepper powder was $4.99.

Italian Market – vegan Philadelphia

IMG_0091    On our last morning in vegan-friendly Philadelphia, we decided to brave the December cold and walk Philly’s Italian Market.   I was told by someone who grew up in South Philly that the Italian Market is not what it used to be, but I’m so glad we went!  It was a quiet Sunday morning and we had gotten advice from a couple of locals as to where to park, and ended up walking a couple of  blocks back to the market.  My old Frommer’s guidebook calls it a “gritty outdoor market–part of Rocky’s famous run.”  Yes, it seemed like a lot the vendors were Asian or Hispanic, but there were also a few Italians and even a pallet fire in a barrel that we warmed our hands by at one point.  All the vendors were super friendly and we had a great walk up and down both sides of the little street, buying produce that was ridiculously cheap (see photos below).  My advice is to walk the market first, and then go back and buy the produce you want at the best price.  For example, the same pineapples or pomegranates varied in price by up to $2, depending on the vendor.  Also, the condition of some produce was pristine, while another seller had it at the same price but in a more wilted condition, etc.  One of the highlights for me was Fante’s kitchen-supply store.  We had ducked in there to get out of the cold for a minute, and left half an hour later with a shopping bag of goodies.  Open since 1906, picture a vintage hardware store packed to the ceiling with shelves of colorful, whimsical and practical cooking supplies–everything you can think of.  My haul included a Silpat (something I’d never used before), a rabbit-shaped cookie cutter, a perforated Chicago Metallic cutting wheel for homemade vegan marshmallows and mochi, and an $18 steel colander that I now don’t know how I lived without all these years.  Loaded up with fresh fruits, vegetables and greens, we left the old Italian Market ready to eat healthy for the next week.   I loved the diversity of all the vendors and shoppers, the convivial atmosphere, and knowing that for the price of a dead-animal burger, anyone on a budget can leave that market with real, whole food at an affordable price.  Food that doesn’t go to waste, and that provides the vendors and their families with a living too.  As a bonus, just the act of walking both sides of the street, and walking to and from the market was great exercise too!

Sip-N-Glo Juicery – Philadelphia

IMG_0080    Here’s another post for the vegan Philadelphia categorySip-N-Glo Juicery is located at 932 South Street in Philadelphia.  After an amazing dinner at Vedge the night before, I was jones-ing for juice on Sunday morning.  Real juice, where they make it in front of you, because seeing is believing.  And Sip-N-Glo Juicery did not disappoint.  From the easy parking at the Whole Foods across the tiny street, to everything else, including the clean kitchen, quick service, and delicious juice, I was happy.  When I asked if I could have a Green Beast but with added carrot and light on the ginger, the reply was, “Of course!”  Check out their stellar menu here.  They offer juice cleanses, shots, and a Kids Menu.  My only regret is that I didn’t buy a t-shirt.  I’d be at this place every week if I were lucky enough to live in vegan-friendly Philadelphia!
IMG_0084  No seating, but easy parking directly across the tiny street, at Whole Foods.
IMG_0085  See your juice made to order in a clean kitchen.
IMG_0087  Lots of add-ins, big menu, t-shirts!

vegan Figgy Toffee Pudding by Vedge

IMG_2721    This vegan Figgy Toffee Pudding is from the Vedge cookbook.  It does taste like the excellent dessert we were served at Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia.   I increased the baking powder in the cake by 1/2 teaspoon because there are three cups of flour in this recipe and a baking standard is to use 1 teaspoon of Baking Powder per cup of flour.  Aside from that, I followed the recipe exactly, and the cake rose very nicely, but was still somewhat dense.  Now that I’ve made this, I recommend reducing the butter in the Figgy Toffee Sauce by half.  It was oily enough that I chilled it in the fridge and with a spoon scraped off most of the butter that rose to the top, and it was still very good.  The cookbook calls for serving this with a homemade madeira-quince ice cream.  I was short on time, so served it instead with Coconut Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream, which was also delicious.  No fresh figs on my tree this time of year, but the sauce came out great without them.  Heavy on the sugar, a half serving is plenty.  This is delicious enough for special occasions and Holidays.  Figgy Pudding dates back to 16th century England, and was traditionally served at Christmas.  As Dickensian a dessert as it gets, it was even on Bob Cratchit’s table in A Christmas Carol.   This is the fourth recipe I’ve made from the Vedge cookbook so far (two others are blogged here), and they’ve all turned out splendidly.  Vedge is my favorite vegan cookbook right now.

Vegan Treats Bakery Halloween Box

IMG_2712    In yesterday’s mail, I received the Trick or Vegan Treats Box from Vegan Treats Bakery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.   This is one of the best Halloween treats I’ve ever gotten and so thank you to Josie and Tim!  This bakery is so awesome that we once drove two hours out of our way to get there.  Vegan Treats Bakery does ship their goodies, and you can pre-order boxes of deliciousness like this, or even regular or gluten-free Easter Baskets–just go to their super-cool web site and look for merch.  Last night we split a pumpkin whoopee pie and I ate two white-chocolate-peanut-butter eyeballs (I swear I can see better).  On this Hallowed Eve, we will sup on Skeleton Gingerdead Men, or maybe the Swiss Chocolate Mummy Pop with bloody Red Velvet filling, or the Speculoos Brownie Bat with Belgian Cookie Butter filling, etc.  Bwa ha ha. . .

Vegan DC – Smoke and Barrel restaurant

20141018_173354(0)    This is post number two about eating vegan in Washington DC.  On a hopping Saturday night, we went to Smoke and Barrel tavern and restaurant at 2471 18th Street NW, in the heart of Adams Morgan.  We got a small table along the brick wall as you come in.  The downside of this place is that they serve a LOT of dead animals.  The upside is that intermingled throughout their menu are some really good vegan options, recognizable by two little symbols after the menu item (a single symbol indicates vegetarian).  Vegan options include chili, sweet potato fries, French fries, smoked asparagus, cole slaw, a vegan chicken cutlet sandwich, a vegan fried fish sandwich, and an interesting salad, among other things.  We settled on a basket of Fried Pickles with Chipotle Aioli that turned out to be totally addictive.  The batter is almost paper-thin, as are the pickle slices, and the chipotle aioli is smoky but not too smoky.  One of the tastiest things I ate all weekend were the Smoked Vegan Wings.  You can get them different ways, and the friendly waiter recommended the Buffalo Blue style, which we liked a lot.  The texture of these wings is like white-meat chicken, very much like the vegan turkey we had last Thanksgiving.  There is a small wooden stick in each wing, so you do have to cut the meat off the stick, and then there are two additional BBQ sauces on the table for you, and they were killer good too.  I was disappointed in the Vegan Spare Ribs, which are possibly made out of Whole Foods General Tso’s Vegan Chicken.  I like the vegan General Tso’s in a stir-fry, but it’s not what I want in a barbecue joint, especially when I could have other menu items instead.  Smoke and Barrel has a few vegan dessert options, you can get any four sides for $10, they’re open 7 days a week AND they even do Brunch every Saturday and Sunday, also with quite a few vegan items.  All in all, I would definitely go back the next time I’m in DC.
20141018_173248   Smoke and Barrel tavern
20141018_174218  Fried Pickles with Chipotle Aioli, totally addictive
20141018_175613  Skip the vegan ribs and go for these vegan wings.

Vegan DC – Native Foods Cafe

20141018_121341    This is the first in a small series of posts about eating vegan in Washington DC.  Our first stop was Native Foods at 1150 Connecticut Avenue NW (at 18th and M).  When you arrive at this address, you must walk around the back of the building to find the restaurant, and it’s a nice spot.  With the help of a $15 million investment from two private equity firms, Native Foods is slated to open 15 to 30 new locations across the U.S. by the end of 2015.  Soon, there will also be two more Native Foods locations open in the DC area.  One at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (Penn Quarter), scheduled to open November 4.  And one at Falls Church, VA (1216 West Broad Street), opening December 9, 2014.  We found the restaurant clean and bright.  At first glance, there didn’t appear to be much seating, but there were tables in another room on street level and then a lot of seating in the basement as well.  It helps to peruse the menu before you go up to order, because there’s a lot to pick from.  Once you pay, they give you a number for your table, and then you sit wherever you want and they bring the food to you.  Lars wanted the Chicken Run Ranch Burger and he also chose the Saigon Roll.  Both were good.  This is fast food that will not clog your arteries, and the portions are large.  There’s a children’s section on the menu, desserts, and beer and wine.  Next time I’ll try the Caribbean Jerk Kale Stacked Salad, or the Bangkok Curry Earth Bowl, or the Classic Deli Reuben or the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger, or Crispy Sweet Potato Fries, and Lavender Lemonade.   I only wish we had a Native Foods Café here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
20141018_121543  Chicken Run Ranch Burger, and Saigon Roll
20141018_121255  One small section of the basement seating.
20141018_121321  More downstairs seating.

Cheesecake Factory Kale Salad with Vegan Low-Fat Buttermilk Black Pepper Dressing

IMG_2654    I’m obsessed with this Kale Salad with Vegan Buttermilk Black Pepper Dressing.  It’s a low-fat vegan copy of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant menu.  Finely shredded kale, sweet golden raisins, salty roasted Marcona almonds, and tart apple batons tossed in lemon juice, all drizzled with a cool Buttermilk dressing.  So damn good–even better than the original.  Thank you to Susan Voisin for her brilliant Hidden Cashew Ranch Dressing.  I found that adding one more Tablespoon of cashews to Susan’s dressing (bumping the cashews up to 1/3 Cup) made the dressing thicker and richer, without affecting fat and calories hardly at all.  Nutritional values below.

For each individual salad, use about 2 Tablespoons chopped Marcona almonds, 2 Tablespoons golden raisins, 50 grams small, unpeeled apple batons tossed in lemon juice, and 33 grams finely shredded kale.  Be sure to chiffonade your kale.  Any leftover acidulated apple batons will keep in the fridge for a day or two.  Notes:  I like using Penzey’s Buttermilk Ranch dry seasoning and in that case, you would use 1 Tablespoon of it and omit the other seasonings in the salad dressing.  Trader Joe’s has salted Marcona almonds that have been roasted with rosemary, but any will do.


Makes twelve  2-Tablespoon servings

1/3 Cup cashews, soaked at least four hours, or overnight
1.25 Cups organic unsweetened soy milk  (I like WestSoy)
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt  (adjust to your taste)
1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley,  orfrozen parsley cubes, thawed and drained
1-2 teaspoons finely-snipped chives  (optional)

Drain and rinse cashews.  Place all ingredients except parsley and chives into blender and process on high until smooth.  Add parsley and/or chives and pulse just until incorporated.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Nutritional Values per 2 Tablespoons of dressing:  Calories 33,  Fat 2g,  Saturated Fat 0.3g,  Trans Fat 0,  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g,  Monounsaturated Fat 1g,  Cholesterol 0,  Sodium 128,  Potassium 32,  Carbs 1,  Fiber 1,  Sugars 0.3,  Protein 2g,  Vitamin A  0.7%,  Calcium 1.3%,  Iron 2.4%.

Vegan Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea

IMG_2593     This vegan Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea or Boba is delicious, and much healthier than anything you can buy in a mall, where they generally use fruit powders and sugar syrup.  Matcha green tea is an acquired taste for some, so if you’re not sure about it, omit it from the recipe, and then just add a pinch or two to your own individual drink.

Makes approximately 2.5 Cups,  or 2 to 3 servings


2 Cups raw honeydew melon chunks (bite-size pieces)
3/4 Cup black tapioca pearls  (boba)
1 Cup almond milk
1/2 Cup So Delicious Creamer
1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
2 teaspoons light agave syrup  (not dark)

for Simple Syrup to store tapioca pearls in:
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup sugar

For the Simple Syrup:  In smallest saucepan, bring the 1/2 Cup water just to a boil.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve any visible sugar.  Reduce heat to a simmer and let simmer a few minutes (less than 5 minutes).  Turn off heat and set aside.

In a large pot, bring 8 Cups of water to boil.  Stir the water and slowly swirl in the tapioca pearls and stir gently to keep pearls from sinking to bottom of pot.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 more minutes.  Rinse a pearl under cool water and chew to test for softness.  In a colander, drain and rinse pearls under cold water.  Put pearls into a glass jar.  Pour the Simple Syrup over the pearls and let cool uncovered and unrefrigerated.

In a blender, puree Matcha, almond milk, creamer, melon and agave syrup, making sure to put the matcha into the blender first, so it doesn’t poof powder all over the top of the blender.  If you do not have a blender, use a food processor to puree the melon and then mix it with everything else.  Chill in refrigerator.  When ready to serve, add 2 Tablespoons cooked tapioca pearls (drained of syrup) to each glass, and top with honeydew milk tea.  A straw is nice.  I like paper straws so I serve with a long, skinny ice-tea spoon to scoop up those chewy, chewy pearls.  In Mandarin, this perfect, toothsome chewiness is called QQ.

Notes:  The tapioca pearls can tend to harden a bit in the refrigerator.  To soften, drain the pearls, cover them with water and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, testing after one minute.   You can stretch the batch of tea a bit by adding an extra 1/2 Cup of vegan creamer.  You can freeze any leftover melon chunks for future use, if you want.  For inspiration, I visited Kitchen Simplicity.  To make it cruelty-free, I specify almond milk and agave syrup.  Upon reading the ingredients of several large boba chains, I noticed they use non-dairy creamer as a base in their bubble teas, so I have done the same.  Never heating the matcha helps minimize its natural bitterness.  I found the boba (tapioca pearls) at an oriental grocery in Salisbury, MD, but there are good sources online, and boba pearls come in various colors.

Nutrition values for the entire batch, not including boba:  Calories 328.  Fat 3.  Saturated fat 0.  Trans fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 214.  Potassium 150.  Carbs 64.  Fiber 2.  Sugars 59.  Protein 3.  Vitamin A 14.  Vitamin C 106.  Calcium 4.  Iron 6.  Nutrition values for 2 Tablespoons of boba:  Calories 41.  Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 23.  Potassium 3.  Carbs 10.
IMG_2587  I was able to find this locally.

Cantaloupe Vanilla Smoothie

IMG_2542    This Cantaloupe Vanilla Smoothie is incredibly refreshing in the heat of summer.   Sweetened with dates, only a few ingredients but packing a wallop of nutrition, and it tastes like good vanilla ice cream.    It’s almost like magic.  Thanks to Gail, my lovely neighbor who delivered three monster cantaloupes from her garden yesterday.


Serves 2 to 3

2 Cups frozen cantaloupe chunks
2 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 Cup organic soy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Scrape seeds out of cantaloupe, and cut into chunks .  Freeze chunks on dinner plates or a cookie sheet, for several hours.  Freezing the cantaloupe chunks is important so you get individual chunks of cantaloupe, not big lumps of frozen-together cantaloupe that won’t fit into the bottom of your blender.   Soak dates in hot water for 10 minutes, then discard pits and chop dates.  Put all ingredients into blender and blend just until smooth.  Enjoy one of the most refreshing shakes ever.  This makes 2 medium smoothies or three small shakes of about 3/4 Cup each.

Notes:  You can stretch this a bit by adding another half cup of cantaloupe.  You may need to add a little more liquid to finesse the blender.  If you want it less sweet, use only one date.  If using smaller dates, adjust accordingly (the Medjool dates are big).
IMG_2534  Frozen chunks of cantaloupe on cookie sheet.

Tints of Nature Hair Colour – bad reaction to hair color

IMG_2148    Postscript dated 05/01/15.  I have stopped using Tints of Nature with foils, and I no longer use it at all, not even the semi-permanent colors, for the following reasons.  Am going to cut-and-paste some comments from a professional here now:  All their comments are in bold before the next poscript.  Am switching to organic henna, people.  Henna often contains pesticides so it’s imperitive that you use ORGANIC henna.  Do your research.  Supposedly, Mehandi and/or Ancient Sunrise is/are good, not sure.

I do not recommend that company, as they use PPD in their regular color and I prefer that my clients not be dead. They also promote false truths like:

“PPD does not accumulate in the body.”  This is not only false, there is no way to remove it once it has entered your system. That’s why it’s called a “cumulative” allergen. It accumulates in your system.

“Use a pharmaceutical grade peroxide.”  This makes absolutely no difference. It’s a statement made to make people have a sense of security about the product. It shouldn’t be necessary. 

“Lowest possible amounts of PPD.”  If this were true, how am I able to run a salon with absolutely NO PPD? 

This is not a trustworthy company.  I have a spanish medical journal that tested several large companies for presence of PPD in color that claimed to be free of the diamine.   Several of the colors showed that it was PRESENT.  

The semi-permanent color you used has AZO dyes in it. You are currently lucky enough to not be reacting to this. This is what clothes are dyed with, as it was originally a textile dye. It’s the same Diamine in Goldwell’s Elumen, and Clairol’s Jazzing.

Foiling is not a safe way to apply PPD, as the molecules that you are allergic to are microscopic. Every time your hair gets wet, you will rinse diamines, or dye. With a semi-permanent color, even if it’s AZO, you are doing the same thing. Does that make sense? Permanent dye cures, and once faded, is done releasing dye. The same with a semi-permanent dye. You may be setting your self up for an AZO reaction. It could be the next time, or in 100 times, or it could be in 1,000 times. There is no way to predict.

Remember, this company loves to promote the 60% organic side. What about the 40% chemical, or “synthetic” side? I enclosed the full ingredients for you. You can google each of them if you like. There are more sensitizers in there than just the AZO dyes, like triethaolamine, Peg-100, And the preservatives are formaldehyde based. I thought you would love that one…

Postscript dated December 16, 2014.  Regarding the post below, I did end up having another allergic reaction to the Permanent Tints of Nature hair color–this time a rash spreading across my face.  Went to dermatologist and was told I was very possibly allergic to a chemical commonly known as PPD, p-Phenylenediamine.  PLEASE BE AWARE that PPDs are cumulative, meaning they build up in your system until your body says “enough” and you suffer an allergic reaction, which can be severe.  If you’ve had a mild allergic reaction, such as an itching scalp, please be aware that in time, you could have a severe reaction, and some people are even hospitalized.  And then you can also suffer reactions from the steroids and creams they will put you on to treat your initial allergic reaction to the hair color.  This is what happened to me.  The steroids lowered my immune system to the point where I caught colds and was on multiple antibiotics for sinus infections, etc.  Urinary Tract infections can result from steroid use also.   And the Metronidazole cream (also known as Flagyl, Metrogel, Metro_____ and several other names) caused me to break out severely–it was unbelievable.  And I developed Rosacea from the steroids, which is very common.  Unfortunately, neither my doctor nor my dermatologist warned me of any of these side effects to the steroids.  I have come up with my own regimen and my face is back to normal, but it took months and a lot of research.

I found Tints of Nature’s ingredients statement online (scroll down to About PPD’s).  In a nutshell, this statement claims that TON permanent colors are still safer than many commercial brands:  The maximum amount of PPD permitted to be used in hair colours is currently set to a maximum level of 2% in hair colourant products. In keeping with our mission to create products that are as natural as possible, our Natural Black (1N) is the only colour that uses 2% PPD, and the average percentage of PPD across our colour range is only 0.42%  However, the statement also says that TON SEMI-Permanent Hair Colour Ingredients are free from PPD’s and PTD’s, etc, with a link to the full ingredients list for the SEMI permanent color.  PLEASE BE AWARE, THERE ARE BAD CHEMICALS IN THE Tints of Nature, and again, I had a very bad reaction after only using highlights.   The semi-permanent color will last for about 12 washes, which is tricky since I wash my hair every day, and this is where the nasty chemicals will leach into your skin.  Doing highlights is a great way to let some gray in, and still retain a bit of color, but I would do them with ORGANIC henna from now on.     When I was a kid, older women had gray hair, and it was normal.   And gray hair doesn’t mean we have to go around looking like we have a Brillo pad on our head either.  Check out my Pinterest board on beautiful gray hair worn with style!  Scroll  bottom to see latest photo of transitioning.

ORIGINAL POST of June 12, 2014:    I tried the permanent color by Tints of Nature Simply Healthier Hair Colour, and, after several colorings had a very bad reaction to it.  I did podcast episodes on vegan cosmetics and vegan personal products, but switching to cruelty-free and vegan hair color took me longer than it should have.  Despite several conversations with my hairdresser about getting vegan products in, no progress was made.  About a year ago, right after having my hair colored at the salon I’ve been going to for ten years, I got what I thought was hives on top of my head.  I tried to figure out if it was just stress or the hair color, and then went to the doctor, but she couldn’t see any visible hives (even though my head itched).  I then had an uncomfortable discussion with my hairdresser where I asked if she washed her brushes and combs in between clients.  Since then, I’ve had these invisible “hives” every now and then, but thought it was stress.  Then two months ago, immediately after a hair coloring at the salon, I got for-real hives on top of my head.  I tried taking Zyrtec, and spraying my head with Benedryl spray about 20 minutes before my evening shower, to no avail.   Went back to the doc and this time there were visible “hives” and she put me on a steroid pack of pills, like the kind you go on for poison ivy.  The technical diagnosis is Contact Dermatitis from exposure to allergens/hair color, and you can see it all over the internet.  The doc also told me if I ever used that hair color again, it would be a lot worse.  Allergic reactions like this can be cumulative–progressively worse each time.  I told my sister about this, and she said she’d gone to a salon and had the same reaction.  She even had these same little hives travel down to the area around her right eye, and that clinched it for me, because I also had little spots traveling down to my right eye.  Browsing online, I found lots of stories like mine, where the hair color they’d been using for many years now caused bad reactions.  And of course, with anything like this, the cause can be a mystery for a while.  I wondered if it was stress, or the unusually-heavy pollen this year, or the fact that my husband sprayed ant spray outside the house, or a combination of all three, etc.  It was a relief to finally solve the case of the “hives.”  On top of all this, I knew I should have tried harder to switch to a cruelty-free and vegan hair color long ago.  No innocent beings should suffer unspeakably-cruel and unnecessary animal testing so I can cover up some gray.

Despite having a 48-hour patch test with no reactions, I still reacted badly to the hair color once it was applied to my scalp.

Salon Negotiations:  If you want to have your self-purchased organic henna color applied at a salon, say, at the same time you have your haircut, you might need to negotiate with your salon.  I’m lucky that my hairdresser was willing to let me bring in my own vegan hair colors.  And she had to learn the product, and she stores the unused product in a cabinet until I see her again.  She suggested that she would take $2 off the price of my usual hair-color-and-cut appointment, and I agreed.  I guess most of the cost is in the labor, and she probably buys her regular hair colors inexpensively and wholesale.  I also factored in that Diane had not raised my salon fees in about five years.  There may be other factors to consider, and you must figure out what’s right for both you and your hairdresser.  I do feel that if your hairdresser is unwilling to work with you, you must then figure out a different path to take.  Also, many, many women color their own hair with organic henna successfully at home, or with the help of a friend.  Please be aware that non-organic henna contains pesticides and may cause reactions.

More photos below, but I want to thank my hairdresser of 12 years, Diane J. Trice, of Diane’s Designs,  305 N. Aurora Street, Easton, Maryland, 21601.  (410) 820-8516.

IMG_0203   Had hair cut short on December 30, 2014, to get rid of a lot of the old colors.

Strawberry Vanilla Date Shake

IMG_2227    My wonderful neighbor Gail stopped by on Memorial Day weekend with pounds and pounds of freshly-picked strawberries out of their impressive garden.  We ate some, but there were so many I decided to create a shake smoothie worthy of them.  Sweetened with dates, and enhanced with natural vanilla, it’s the bomb.


Servings:  2 to 4

2 Cups frozen strawberries
4 dried dates, with pits removed   (chop each date into about 4 pieces)
1.5 Cups plant milk
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean,  or  1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Add all to blender and blend.  If your blender gets stuck, a good trick is to slide a long teaspoon down the sides of the blender container or give a quick stir to allow contents to settle once again.  Add a little more liquid if you need to.

Notes:   Using store-bought frozen strawberries is just fine.  To freeze fresh strawberries, rinse them with cold water just before you need them, and lay them on an old dish towel to dry.  Use an old towel in case they stain your towelHull the strawberries using a paring knife, and discard the green tops.  Freeze strawberries on dinner plates until they are frozen.  Then place frozen strawberries into a freezer container.  This method will prevent the strawberries from freezing together in a solid mass.  If you can, organic strawberries (whether fresh or frozen) are worth buying, because strawberries are in the Dirty Dozen (among the most pesticide-laden produce).  If you do not have a high-powered blender, you might want to soak the dates in almost-hot water for 15 minutes before pitting and blending.  Here are good tips for splitting and seeding a vanilla bean.   Make sure to look in the bulk section of your local health food store for vanilla beans, for cheaper prices.  If you really want to gild the lily, add a few Tablespoons of granola to this shake after it’s out of the blender.  This is great with almond milk too.  My favorite soy milk is WestSoy Organic Unsweetened.

Approx Nutrition info for the whole batch:  Calories 489.  Fat 7 gr.  Saturated Fat 1 gr.  Polyunsaturated Fat 4 gr.  Monounsaturated Fat 2 gr.  Trans Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 45.  Potassium 1538.  Carbs 106.  Fiber 20.  Sugars 78.  Protein 16.  Vitamin A 4%.  Vitamin C 180%.  Calcium 14%.  Iron 27%.

Vegan Ottolenghi Raspberry Oat Bars

IMG_1971    These vegan Raspberry and Oat Bars by Yotam Ottolenghi have a caramel nut topping,  raspberry filling and rustic oat-pastry base.  You can vary the types of nuts and jam–use what you have on hand.  Although there are a few steps to these, this is an easy recipe,  and you wind up with something rich, decadent and kind of special.  I did add a pinch of salt to the topping, and used Spelt flour instead of all-purpose flour.  There is another excellent Raspberry Oat Bar on this site as well.


Makes 16 bars

1 Cup spelt flour   (or all-purpose flour,  or whole wheat pastry flour)
scant 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
6 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1/3 Cup vegan sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 Cup rolled oats

3/4 Cup raspberry jam  (I prefer Dickinson’s brand)

3/4 Cup sliced almonds
3/4 Cup raw pecans,  chop coarsely
1/2 Cup raw hazelnuts, chop coarsely
1/2 Cup raw Brazil nuts, chop coarsely

6 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1/3 Cup vegan sugar
2 Tablespoons So Delicious Coconut Creamer  (or other plant milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a 9-inch square cake pan with parchment paper each way so the paper comes up each side of the pan to create tabs to lift the bars/slab out of the pan.  This will take two longer sheets of parchment paper.

To make the base.  Dry whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add sugar and dry whisk again.  Add cold vegan butter in small chunks, and cut in with a pastry cutter to form a crumb texture.  Stir in the oats.  Press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool 10-15 minutes.  Stir jam until smooth and then spread the jam over the base crust.

To make the topping.  Place all chopped nuts in a large, heat-resistant bowl and stir  together.  In a small saucepan, heat butter, sugar and plant milk over medium heat.  Stir until sugar has dissolved, and then stir in vanilla.  Pour this mixture over the chopped nuts and stir together.  Pack nut mixture evenly over the jam/base, and return pan to oven to bake for 30 more minutes, until nuts have turned a nice golden brown.  Leave pan to cool on rack.  When it’s fairly cool, chill in fridge (it will firm up in the fridge).  Remove from pan and onto a large cutting board.  Peel away parchment paper and cut into squares.

Notes:  I reduced the butter in the base and in the topping by one Tablespoon each, as written above.  Measure out and then chop the nuts.

Avocado Toast

IMG_1825    Yes, Avocado Toast is a thing.  If you’ve already had Avocado Toast, you know how good it is.  If you haven’t, get thee to a kitchen pronto.  Lots of people claim they invented Avocado Toast, it’s all over the internet and in foodie magazines, and famously on the menu at Café Gitaine in New York City.  There’s something rustically beautiful about this dish, and it’s so delicious that I’ve eaten it for lunch three days in a row.  Don’t forget the lemon–it makes it sing!


whole grain bread
avocados  (approx. one small-to-medium avocado per person)
extra-virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
black pepper
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice  (lemon is a must, in my opinion)

Toast whole-grain bread.  Cover toast with slices of fresh avocado.  Drizzle lightly with extra-virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with fine sea salt and black pepper.  Squeeze fresh lemon over the whole thing and eat while toast is still crunchy and before avocado goes brown.

NOTES:  This somehow tastes even better with whole-grain bread.  I used Fleur de sel for salt and Shallot-Pepper from Penzey’s Spices, but it still tastes fabulous with plain salt and pepper.  I would avoid kosher salt (too chemical tasting) and I wouldn’t think of mashing my avo because I prefer the almost-toothsome texture of just-ripe slices.  That being said, make sure your avocado is not overly ripe, not mushy.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce

IMG_1810    This is the 2nd delicious and easy recipe I’ve tried from the Vedge cookbook by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby.  I’ve eaten these Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce at the Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia (see photo below), and this recipe replicates that experience very well.  My comments on the recipe are to make sure to divide your salt and pepper before you begin (I accidentally threw all the pepper into the sauce, which didn’t hurt it).  The sauce takes two minutes to make, so make that first and throw it in the fridge.  Cut the stems/bottoms well off the sprouts and discard.  I just used a knife to cut and shave the sprouts.  Make sure to cook the sprouts on high (as per the recipe) because that’s how you get the roasty bits.  Go easy on the sauce–a little goes a long way, and next time I would probably only make half of the sauce.  Out of the Vedge cookbook, I also made the Salt Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion, which is also an easy and super-delicious recipe.  It’s simple to make the components for both of these recipes ahead.  Once the sprouts are prepped, they take only a 5-minute sizzle in the pan before serving.   In short, I love this gorgeous cookbook.
IMG_1484  Here’s the dish we received at Vedge restaurant.  As you can see, lighting was super-low, and they used a very grainy mustard.  I just used organic whole-grain mustard from a jar, and it was still delicious.

Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion

IMG_1784    Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion.  This delicious recipe is from the Vedge cookbook by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby.  Although this dish has various components, it’s simple to make.  To save time, I roasted and peeled the beets the day before I needed them.  We also recently ate this salad at the Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia, and it was killer.  I was pleasantly surprised that the dish I made at home actually tasted like what we ate at the restaurant.  In the restaurant, this dish is served in a round stack with a circle of smoked tofu (see photo below).  My comments on this dish are that I used only 1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt (since the capers are so salty), and I also reduced the second application of black pepper.  I was unable to procure fresh dill and it’s too early for dill in my garden, so I substituted 1 teaspoon of dried dill weed.  And . . . it was still wonderful.  I grow beets, and cook beets more than most people, and noticed no discernible difference with the salt roasting–so in future, I would simply wrap the beets in foil and roast them in the oven for 60-90 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  By the way, the cookbook is gorgeous, with 100 plant-based recipes that highlight The Vegetable.  It has a soft, matte cover with no pesky dust jacket, and beautiful photographs.  Since I had one of the best meals of my life at Vedge restaurant, this cookbook is not going on the shelf–because I’ll be too busy using it.
IMG_1483  At the restaurant, this is served in a stack with a ring of smoked tofu.

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Tuna Rolls

IMG_1458    This vegan tuna tastes so much like tuna fish that it’s freaky.   It even smells like tuna fish.  I ordered these Vegan Tuna Rolls from Healthy Eating, a good resource for all kinds of things.   Here in the U.S., the word roll can refer to a type of sandwich–the exact type of sandwich pictured on the box (see photo below).   However, the world “roll” as used on this box of tuna rolls means you literally get two frozen, sausage-shaped rolls of vegan tuna filling (see last photo below).  So, the tuna filling comes all by itself, with no bread or anything.  You simply thaw and then cut open these tuna logs and use the filling as you would a can of tuna fish.   About price: I had no choice but to order six boxes of tuna rolls for a total of $59.99.  Shipping and handling was another $14.95, for a total of $74.94, let’s call it $75.   However, we got three sandwiches out of each tuna roll, and that means enough vegan tuna to make six sandwiches per box.  $75 divided by 36 = $2.08 per serving, and that includes frozen shipping with cold packs.  Now, the box says there are “about 4” servings per box, and that would make some big sandwiches.  The sandwiches I made were a generous-average size, in my opinion.  So, price would vary depending upon use.

As far as “dressing up” this tuna, the sky’s the limit.  My favorite ingredients include Vegenaise, chopped pickled red onions, sweet relish, salt and pepper.  I had a friend who always put Celery Salt in her tuna salad, and finely-chopped celery.  You could put capers or grated carrots, etc.  If these Vegan Tuna Rolls are not your thing, please check out the other vegan tuna salad also on this site–it’s delicious and easy.   p.s.  Lars never liked tuna fish salad, so I was surprised that he really likes this vegan tuna!
IMG_1454  Two rolls of vegan tuna filling per box.

Carrot Pear Almond Smoothie

IMG_1435    When I don’t have time to juice, I turn to smoothies.  After the mornings of alkalizing green juices, smoothies feel like dessert, but this is serious nutrition too.  Because I juice and blend what I’ve got on hand, it always varies, but every now and then, some serendipitous combination hits the mark and I know it’s a keeper.  Here we have the sandy sweetness of a fully-ripe D’Anjour pear with frozen banana, creamy vegan yogurt, almond milk, a little almond butter and raw carrots.  A literal pinch of ground cinnamon is very faint, but it marries them all into a happy ending.  You can play around with this–omit the banana for a slightly thinner consistency, change the nut butter, plant milk or spice, etc., but this is the way I like it.   p.s. You will not be hungry after this vegan smoothie!


Makes enough for 2 to 4, depending on serving sizes.

1/2 frozen banana, cut into chunks
1 ripe Anjou pear
1 large carrot,  or 2 small-to-medium carrots
1/2 Cup vegan yogurt,  plain or vanilla flavor
1 Cup almond milk
1 Tablespoon almond butter
pinch cinnamon  (1/16th teaspoon)

Blend all, and enjoy!

Notes:  Peel and cut the bananas before you freeze them.  You could add some ice during the blending process too.  The yogurt is providing probiotics.   After drinking a smoothie, it’s a good practice to rinse your mouth well with water, to help rinse the fruit sugars off your tooth enamel.

Vegan Brazil Nut Pate

IMG_1411    What we have here is a really nice vegan pate.  Inspired by a very simple Brazil Nut Pate I saw in Vegan For Her, I referred to my 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking, and also my 1961 copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cook Book.  Pates in those old tomes call for some common elements to choose from, including salt, pepper, Worcestershire, allspice or nutmeg, pistachio nuts, truffles, grated onions, parsley or chervil and lemon juice.  Also, a single type of alcohol, such as brandy, cognac, Madeira or sherry.  A bit of flour is often added, possibly for a binder.  Also, sometimes, whipping cream, which can easily be replaced by cashew cream.  And we now also have vegan substitutes for other commonly-used pate ingredients like gelatin and cream cheese.

Garnishes often include parsley and cornichons, or even stuffed olives and thinly sliced limes.  I would suggest that tiny sweet gherkins would do if cornichons are not readily available.  I added olive oil to mimic the fatty quality of outdated pates.   We like this on Ritz crackers or very thin slices of toasted garlic bread.  I know some consider Ritz a bit lowbrow, but we like the buttery, salty quality of them, and their delicate crispness.


Yield: 1.5 Cups?  (not sure)  This recipe will fill two 4-inch ramekins for a party though.

1 Cup raw Brazil nuts
1/2 Cup blanched almonds
1/3 Cup pickled red onions (or regular red onions), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed and minced
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard
2 Tablespoons vegan cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 Tablespoon organic vegan Worcestershire sauce, such as Wizard brand
2 Tablespoons Madeira wine  (or cognac, or brandy or sherry)
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin organic olive oil
1 to 2 Tablespoons water

Soak all nuts for two hours, or overnight.  Drain and rinse nuts in colander.
In a food processor (not a blender), add all ingredients and process to as fine a consistency as you can, scraping down the sides often.  Add an extra Tablespoon of plant milk or water if necessary.  Set in fridge for a few hours or even better, overnight, for flavors to meld.   Garnish with parsley and cornichons.

Serve with thin slices of garlic bread, crackers, and/or raw vegetables such as slices of sweet red bell pepper, or endive.  I could also see stuffing cherry tomatoes and garnishing with a thin round slice of olive, for example.

Notes:  Read the lead-in for variations suggestions.  Brazil nuts are definitely a power food, providing calcium, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, omegas, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, zinc, etc., etc.  Another vegan Worcestershire sauce is by Whole Foods 365 Organic.  You can also sprinkle with Paprika.

Holiday or Christmas Playlist

IMG_1276    Here are some of the Holiday or Christmas songs on my ipod, so you can pick and choose and make a holiday playlist of your own.  It starts out with faster songs for the beginning of a party, and then slows down as it goes along.  Within each section, the songs are in no particular order, and there are some duplicate songs done by different artists.

All I Want For Christmas Is You  by  Katia Keres
All I Want For Christmas Is You  by  Mariah Carey
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree  by  Brenda Lee
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town  by  Frank Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper
Winter Wonderland  by  Eurythmics
Merry Christmas Baby  by  Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band
Santa Baby  by  Madonna
Christmas in Hollis  by  Run-D.M.C.
Run Rudolph Run  by  Bryan Adams
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)  by  U2
Back Door Santa  by  Bon Jovi
What Christmas Means To Me  by  Paul Young

Blue Christmas  by  Ann and Nancy Wilson
Santa Claus Is Back In Town  by  Jonny Lang
Merry Christmas Baby by  Bonnie Raitt and Charles Brown
Santa Baby  by  Eartha Kitt

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas  by  The Pretenders
The Christmas Song  by  Luther Vandross
The Christmas Song  by  The Raveonettes
Christmas Time Is Here  by  Sarah McLachlan featuring Diana Krall
Please Come Home For Christmas  by  Pat Benatar
Silver Bells  by  Jonny Mathis
White Christmas  by  Otis Redding
White Christmas  by  Elvis
25th December  by  Everything But The Girl
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow  by  Dean Martin
I’ll Be Home For Christmas  by  The Platters
Auld Lang Syne  by  Mindy Smith

Mary, Did You Know?  by  Cee Lo Green
Gabriel’s Message  by  Sting
The Coventry Carol  by  Alison Moyet
The Little Drummer Boy  by  Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band
Silent Night  by  Priscilla Ahn
Silent Night  by  Sinead O’Connor
Silent Night  by  Stevie Nicks
What Child Is This?  by  Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige
What Child Is This?  by  Sarah McLachlan
O Come, O Come Emmanuel  by  Enya
O Come, O Come Emmanuel  by  Bette Midler
O, Little Town of Bethlehem  by  Nat King Cole
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen  by  The Platters
Away In A Manger  by  The Platters

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey

IMG_1221  I meant to try this Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey last year, but never got to it.  This comes with gravy and stuffing, which I promptly discarded (see postscript at bottom).  I served this with homemade sides:  classic stuffing dressing with apples and pecans, baked stuffed potatoes, cranberry sauce with Kirschwasser and Cherry, and Golden Gravy with chanterelle mushrooms.  We also had some delicious Treeline Scallion French-Style Soft Cheese as an appetizer, with some sparkling cider, and a salad.  For dessert, we had a choice of Pumpkin Pie with Streusel or Pear Crisp.  I basted the non-GMO vegan turkey with a glaze of vegan butter, a teensy bit of maple syrup and sea salt.  My review is that I was very happy with this soy turkey.  The “skin” on the outside does mimic turkey skin, and it could not be easier to make.  I rinsed it, patted it dry, baked it on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet for 45 minutes, with a basting after 15 minutes and again after 30 minutes.  The basting also helped the appearance.  I do recommend stuffing the turkey as it keeps the whole thing moist, but you will need to bake additional stuffing/dressing on the side, because you cannot fit much inside this bird.  I would guess it serves about 10 people and is a great solution for those transitioning to a vegan or vegetarian diet.  Lars is vegetarian and really liked it.  It slices beautifully, and makes the best turkey sandwich I’ve ever had, great for leftovers.  If you eat a bit by itself, there is a faint hint of soy flavor, but with the other sides, you don’t notice it, and in a sandwich, it’s non-existent.  I would definitely buy this again.  This turkey can be bought from Vegan Essentials online, and also from the Healthy Eating Catalog.  Sometimes they run out, so get your order in when you can.  Additional photos below.    Postscript:  Nov. 2014.  Lars requested this turkey again, so I made it and am just as happy.  However, I decided to try the stuffing and the gravy this time, for you all.  I simply sautéed chopped acidulated Fuji apple, and onions, and then used half the dry stuffing and followed all other directions, and it was decent.  About the gravy, it was TERRIBLE–don’t do it, make your own!
IMG_1230  Slices like a dream, and makes killer turkey sandwiches for leftovers.
IMG_1215  We really liked this cheese on crackers.  I wouldn’t hesitate to make little canapés with it either.

Ep. 007 – Vegan Thanksgiving


Welcome to the Peaceful Table Podcast.  This is the Vegan Thanksgiving episode.  We’ll talk about some strategies for navigating omnivore get-togethers, and lots of amazing vegan food, from soup to nuts, to bring along with you to any gathering.  And entertaining tips for hosting your own Thanksgiving dinner and potluck.

Thanksgiving recipes
My Thanksgiving Pinterest Page
Barnivore – catalog of vegan wines, beers, liquors
Thanksgiving Art Project for kids.
Thanksgiving storybook for kids:  Sometimes It’s Turkey
My Life As A Turkey – a PBS film
floating tealight candles
BIA Cordon Bleu ramekins, 4″, on Amazon
BIA Cordon Bleu ramekins, from Chef’s Catalog
Pier 1 copycat ramekins
NY Times Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes – 2010
NY Times Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes – 2011
NY Times Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes – 2012

Two great Thanksgiving podcast episodes by Colleen Patrick Goudreau:
Thanksgiving FOR The Birds – episode dated November 2, 2007,
Celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving Without Compromising Your Values – episode dated September 18, 2008.

Cranberry Sauce with Kirschwasser and Cherry

IMG_1145    This might be the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever made.  To temper the astringency of the cranberries, I’ve paired them with cherry brandy and 100% real cherry juice.  I used a potato masher on the cooked sauce to give it a smoother texture while leaving a bit of Early American rusticity.  Kirschwasser is a clear brandy distilled from a fermented mash of cherries.  I’ll use the leftover cherry juice in the juicer, but you could make cocktails with it, or drink it straight in the morning, because it’s great for inflammation.  I don’t drink, but with the leftover Kirschwasser, you could make festive cherry Sidecars for the Thanksgiving bar too.  If you don’t want any alcohol in the house, just substitute more cherry juice for the Kirschwasser.   p.s.  There are three other cranberry sauces on this site:  Classic Cranberry SauceHoliday Cranberry Sauce,  and Cranberry Sauce with Amontillado Sherry.


Makes about 2 Cups

1 lb. fresh cranberries
1 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup Kirschwasser  (I used Dekuyper brand)
1/2 Cup 100% cherry juice  (I used R.W. Knudsen Just Tart Cherry Juice)

Bring cranberries, sugar and Kirschwasser to simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium or medium-low heat.  Stir until sugar has dissolved, a minute or two.  Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until cranberries burst, about 12 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cherry juice.  Mash gently with a potato masher until it’s the consistency you want.  Cool completely.  Freeze or keep in refrigerator up to one week, in an airtight container.

Note:  If you don’t want to use the alcohol, just use more cherry juice instead of the Kirschwasser.

Chickpea Zucchini Fries with Sumac and Lemon

IMG_1104    Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, this is my riff on Mario Batali’s Chickpea Fries.  We found his version too bland, so these have been spiced up a bit, and this recipe below is halved.  I didn’t bother wringing out the zucchini, just left it to drain longer instead.  Packed with fiber and protein, these golden fries are addictive when served with wedges of fresh lemon and sea salt.


Serves 4

1 large zucchini, partially peeled and grated  (approx. 3 cups of grated zucchini)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 Cups water
1.5 Cups chickpea flour  (also called garbanzo flour)
1.5 teaspoon ground sumac
1 teaspoon Shallot-Pepper  or any other spice(s)
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour for dredging (optional)
1/2 Cup peanut oil
2 lemons, cut into wedges
sea salt or other finishing salt

Place grated zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and stir to mix well.  Transfer grated zucchini to a colander set over a bowl, and set aside to drain for 30 minutes or so.  Occasionally, gently stir and press it with the back of a spoon.

Grease a baking dish and line the bottom with waxed paper or parchment paper.  I used waxed paper and a Pyrex dish of approx. 11×7 inches.  Set this prepared baking dish in the refrigerator while you work.

In a medium mixing bowl, dry whisk the sumac and shallot-pepper (or other seasonings) into the chickpea flour.  In a medium saucepan, simmer the water over medium heat.  Pour in the seasoned chickpea flour and stir constantly for one minute, making sure heat is not too high.  Add zucchini, stir well and remove from heat.  Pour zucchini mixture into prepared baking dish, and gently press and smooth it out with the back of a spoon.  Chill for at least one hour, or overnight.

Onto a large floured cutting board, turn out the set chickpea mixture.  Peel off and discard the waxed paper.  Cut into fries approx. 3″ x 1/2″.   In a heavy-bottom pot, heat the oil.  Dredge fries lightly in all-purpose flour (this step is optional but it’s the only way I’ve ever done it).  Working in batches, cook the chickpea fries until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.  You’re going for golden brown here, not too dark.  Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with plenty of lemon wedges,  and sea salt for sprinkling.

Notes:  You can find ground sumac in any Middle-Eastern grocery.  These are worth getting out your best salt for.  Feel free to change up the spices.  I’ll try using black pepper and rosemary next time, to go with the lemon and sea salt.  These are called panisses in France, and panelle in Italy.  Here’s a video of Mario Batali making these.  More photos below.

IMG_1098 Zucchini draining into a bowl.
IMG_1100  Water drained from the zucchini.

Salad in A Jar

IMG_1079    I saw Salad In a Jar in a great blog post on these make-ahead, packable salads.  A few times a year, I have to attend a meeting where a lunch of dead animals is provided for everyone (except me).  This time, I had a beautiful meal instantly constructed on my plate, with just a shake and a tip of the wide-mouth canning jar.


wide-mouth canning jar(s), quart size
salad dressing
salad fixings

Put salad dressing on the bottom of the jar(s) and start building.  First, add ingredients that benefit from a marinade in the salad dressing, things like beets or beans or lentils.  As you build up further away from the dressing, you could add chopped nuts, dried fruit, diced vegetables, drained mandarin oranges, greens or lettuces, cooked quinoa, croutons, etc.  Make sure to leave an inch or two of space at the top–this will allow you to shake the salad, and it will also keep your food away from any BPA in the canning jar lid.

Notes:  It’s easy to fill more than one jar at a time.  I prefer to cut my greens or lettuces into smaller pieces.  Ingredients can change with the seasons–in the summer, you could tuck some nasturtium flowers from the garden on top, and in the Fall you could use roasted root vegetables.   Take these flavors in any direction by changing up the dressing and fixings–Mexican, Greek, etc.   I’m thinking cold Japanese somen noodle salad with smoked tofu, green onions, fresh peas and seasame seeds.  Or Middle Eastern with tahini dressing, roasted chickpeas, cucumbers, pistachios or walnuts, and dried apricots.

Ep. 006 – Vegan New York City


Welcome to the Peaceful Table podcast.  This is the Vegan New York City show, but we’re also going to talk about the recipes I made for Vegan Mofo, strategies for keeping warm this winter, including bedding and jackets.  Regional Recommendations, a great kitchen tool, one of my favorite podcasts, and some of my favorite scary movies to watch around Halloween.


Vegan Halloween Pinterest Page.
Vegan candy list.
My four favorite scary movies to watch around Halloween are The Lost BoysThe VillageShaun of The DeadZombieland.
Viva La Vegan Pizza – Ledo Restaurants.
How little doctors learn about nutrition in medical school.
New York City restaurant reviews.
Alicia Silverstone video on Down is less than three minutes long, please watch.
Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket is also available for men and comes in different styles.
LL Bean Ascent Packaway Jacket is also available for men.
Home Classics Level 1 Down-Alternative Comforter.
Home Classics Level 2 Down-Alternative Comforter.
Home Classics Reversible Down-Alternative Comforters.
IKEA cotton and linen duvet covers.
Threshold Organic Cotton blankets from Target.
Acela Train menu.  Has quite a few vegan items.
Recipes I made for Vegan Mofo 2013.
Snap Judgment podcast.
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent.  Scroll down to see little video!

Jivamuktea Cafe – New York City

IMG_0826     One Saturday morning, we left our hotel on the Upper West Side and cabbed it over to the Union Square Saturday Outdoor Market.  After we enjoyed that, we had an early lunch at Jivamuktea Café, at the Jivamukti Yoga School at 841 Broadway (2nd floor) in New York City.  We got there right when they opened and they were not busy at all.  The food is all vegan, and it was fine, and it was a great place to rest before the long walk ahead.  The atmosphere of the lobby and desk was hushed and respectful.  I only wish I could have had a yoga lesson, but alas, there was no time.

IMG_0825  This is what you see when you walk in.  Next to this is a little gift shop and then the café.

IMG_0828  IMG_0830

IMG_0831  IMG_0833

Vegan Lychee Buttercream Frosting

IMG_0955    My lovely cousin Munam brought me some canned Lychee from Rockville.  And so I created this Lychee Buttercream Frosting to go with the Lychee Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.   I was a bit skeptical about the recipe for the cupcake itself because it has a whopping 5 Tablespoons of flaxseed in it, but these cupcakes are very good–slightly dense and fruity, but still definitely cake.  I used only 1/3 Cup of finely-chopped lychee fruit and only 1/4 Cup of oil in the recipe, and they were still great.  I remember eating lots and lots of lychee as a kid on Kauai when we would pick them right off the branches.  This is my first experience with canned lychee and although it’s been decades, the fruity floral perfume of this Lychee Buttercream Frosting takes me right back to the Garden Isle.


4 Cups confectioners/powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
3 Tablespoons lychee syrup/juice from a can of lychee
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 drop red food coloring (optional)

In a mixing bowl, bring Earth Balance Buttery Sticks to room temperature.  Add all other ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until smooth.  If you want the lychee flavor to be milder, use only 2 Tablespoons of lychee syrup and add 1 Tablespoon of water.  I’m going from memory, but it seems to me that the canned lychee flavor is a bit more intense than the fresh lychee.  Canned lychee are often available in Oriental grocery stores.  I used a 20 ounce can of lychee, so I had plenty of syrup to work with for both the cupcakes and this frosting.

Nice Matin Restaurant – New York City

IMG_0757    For our first vegan breakfast in New York City, we ate at Nice Matin, which is located directly next door to The Lucerne hotel, where we were staying.   Now, Nice Matin is decidedly not a vegan restaurant, but in the interest of time, we made do very nicely there.  First, we walked directly across the street to the little Duane Reade and bought some Silk soy milk and walked it right back to the restaurant.  They welcomed us in and ushered us to a table with no complaints.  I got the Bowl of Ripest Fruits and Berries and the House Toasted Granola, which was chock full of nuts.  Also on the breakfast menu are McCann’s Steelcut Irish Oatmeal with Sliced Bananas, Raisins and Brown Sugar.  Or Perfect Grapefruit Segments with Sliced Apples and Granola.   They also had fresh melons, toast with jams,  juices, etc.  Nice Matin has open-air seating in nice weather and a nice atmosphere–slightly deco, slightly French.  You can also order off their menu for room service if you are staying next door at The Lucerne hotel.    Portions were generous and they even brought us extra fruit for some reason.  We stayed at The Lucerne because it’s within easy walking distance of 3 or 4 vegan restaurants and you can even get vegan food delivered!  This would be a good place to meet friends or family for breakfast in NYC.  One more photo below.

IMG_0762  They let us bring in our own soy milk.

Peacefood Cafe – New York City

IMG_0863    We walked to Peacefood Café for dinner on our last night in New York City.  This is the location on the Upper West Side at 460 Amsterdam Avenue.  Right from the get-go, it was a pleasant atmosphere.  Light and clean with some fresh touches, such as a blooming potted azalea, little oil paintings, and colorful fruit stacked for juicing.  This place was a bit casual, which we liked.  I would come here in my jeans, or in a dress after work.  Also, this was the one place where the food came out piping hot, I was so impressed with that.  The service was great.  Our waitperson was a young woman who kept an eye on us, and there was no annoying delay for the check when we were finally ready to leave.  I liked that she served with no pretense, she was just friendly and efficient.

IMG_0866  I got the PFC Un-Chicken Basket with an aioli and a chipotle sauce.  Excellent and enough for at least three people.

IMG_0867  Chickpea Fries with House Dipping Sauce.  These are actually more like little bricks, and have a hint of Indian spice.  Very good and filling.  These literally had steam coming out when we cut into them.

IMG_0860  Juice anyone?  Yes, please!

IMG_0859  Peacefood pastry case.  We got a Raspberry Jam Spelt Bar, which was big enough for two, for $4.  To make your own amazing raspberry bar, go here.

IMG_0857  The back of the restaurant is a bit quieter.

IMG_0858  The front half of the restaurant.

IMG_0861   Outside the door.

Candle 79 Restaurant – New York City

IMG_0786    Vegan Mofo 2013.  For our first lunch ever in New York City, we went to Candle 79, on the Upper East Side, at 154 East 79th Street.  It was a gorgeous September day, around 75 degrees out, so the bottom of the restaurant was open-air that day.  We arrived when they opened and were seated promptly in a quiet spot.  We were unable to get any caffeinated “regular” iced tea, but a hot tea was poured over ice for me.  The service was great–our waiter was pleasant and attentive without hovering.   Later, one of the managers, Christine, came by our table to see how we were doing and she was so friendly and helpful, gave us some directions around town.  A wonderful lunch, all in all!

IMG_0795  Lars got the BBQ Seitan Burger with avocado, chipotle aioli, red onions, polenta fries and mesclun.  It was kind of excellent!

IMG_0793  I got the Falafel Sandwich on whole wheat pita with Israeli salad, minted tahini, mesclun greens and quinoa tabouleh.  Good and filling.  I especially liked the salad.

IMG_0799  I was dying to try their carrot cake, but we had ahead of us a long walk back to the Upper West Side, through Central Park, so we kept it lighter and split the Housemade Ice Cream and Sorbet Sampler.  From left, the flavors were vanilla cinnamon, peach sorbet and huckleberry.  So delicious.  We really liked the cinnamon one, which surprised us because the flavor was slightly intense, but it was the perfect complement to the creamy vanilla base.

IMG_0789   The upstairs seating was fairly comfortable.

IMG_0800  The kitchen is on the ground floor, semi-visible.

IMG_0787  A fun greeting at the door.

Candle Cafe West – New York City

IMG_0734   Vegan Mofo 2013.  Please excuse my absence from Mofo, but I’ve been in New York City for a few days, just got back last night.  On our first night there, we had dinner at Candle Café West, at 2427 Broadway, on the Upper West Side.  I booked our reservation through Open Table, which I do recommend.  We arrived at 6 p.m. and the restaurant was not busy yet.  There was no caffeinated iced tea on the menu, but our waitress poured a hot tea over ice for me.  Lars got a nice glass of wine, so he was happy.  We ordered two appetizers and split an entrée.   The food came out of the kitchen within 10 minutes after ordering!   I just wish I could go back and order some of their juices and salads (next time).   Let’s just get on with the review and photos below.

IMG_0737  The restaurant inside is sort of warm, cozy, clean, low lighting, lots of wood, wait staff in all black.  Do not wear your pajama pants here, but you would be fine in jeans and a decent shirt, or even all dressed up.

IMG_0739   Fried Seitan Dumplings appetizer.  The seitan was sort of ground up, very good.  I especially liked the still-slightly-crisp baby bok choy in a very light sesame-ginger soy-sauce.  You could also get these dumplings steamed instead of fried.  I liked these.  $13.

IMG_0743  Summer Rolls appetizer.  Pickled cabbage, carrots, zucchini, cilantro, BBQ-ginger seitan wrapped in rice paper with spicy peanut sauce.  Lars liked these.  $13.

IMG_0745  Seitan Piccata entrée with creamed spinach, mushrooms, garlic mashed potatoes, white wine-lemon-caper sauce.  This is their iconic dish, so we had to try it.  Lars said this was the best thing he ate the whole time he was in NYC.  I liked it too and the texture was pretty spot-on, just like a classic paillard.

IMG_0750   Lars got the Berry Crumble dessert.  Seasonal berries, almond crumble, vanilla ice cream, berry coulis.  This was fine, and a nice finish, but it honestly could not touch my crumble.  $13.

 IMG_0752   Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse Pie dessert.  Chocolate mousse and peanut butter, berry coulis and salted peanuts.  Not quite enough peanut butter for my taste, the peanut butter was overpowered, but the texture is amazing!   Surprisingly light but still rich.  $10.

IMG_0753  This is what you see as you come up the stairs from the restrooms.

IMG_0744  A view from our nice, quiet table.

Chia Fresca

IMG_0709    I’m late to the party on Chia Fresca, but here’s how I like it.  Now, if only I could run like the Tarahumara Indians!  Vegan Mofo 2013.


Makes 2 Cups

2 Cups Water
1.5 Tablespoons chia seeds
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons agave syrup

Mix all in a container, and shake or whisk.
Let it sit for 30 minutes, shaking or whisking every now and then.
Drink as is, or chill first.
Store any leftovers in the fridge overnight.

Notes:  You can find lots of info. on chia fresca online, on sites like this oneWhole Foods and health food stores usually have chia seeds now and they’re much cheaper in bulk.  You can also buy organic chia seeds.

Vegan Yogurt Biscuits

IMG_0721    Vegan Mofo 2013.  These quick Vegan Yogurt Biscuits work out to about one gram of fat apiece, which means we can crack them open and slather them with some vegan butter!  They’re really Southern style, if you follow the simple technique below.


Makes at least 6.

1.5 Cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 oz. container So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt, Plain flavor only
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter and a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt the one Tablespoon of vegan butter, stir the pinch of salt into it, and set it aside.
Whisk the 1.5 Cups of flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a large bowl.
Add the yogurt to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.
Sprinkle counter with extra flour, and turn dough out onto the floured countertop.
Sprinkle a bit of flour onto the dough and fold it in half 3 or 4 times, adding a bit more bench flour as you need it, but be sparing.
Pat dough until it’s no more than a half-inch-tall round.
Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into flour and cut out biscuits without twisting the cutter.
You can use a thin drinking glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter, no worries.
Place biscuits 2 inches apart on baking sheet, and brush them with the salty butter, do not skip this step!
Bake 10-14 minutes, until golden.
Serve hot.

Notes:  These are best served hot and fresh.  For me, nothing compares to Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread.  My friend Jan hails from North Carolina, and years ago (before I went vegan) she taught me to brush Southern biscuits with a buttery, slightly-salt glaze, it makes all the difference.

Old Virginia Heirloom Tomato

IMG_0673    Vegan Mofo 2013.  Behold the Old Virginia heirloom tomato.  This is my first time growing this particular variety.  I’m a wicked tomato snob, and one year grew eleven varieties of organic heirlooms, which is no easy feat because if you plant one heirloom variety near another, they can easily cross-pollinate and hybridize.  I planted these seeds on April 14, here in my backyard on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Lars told me I should have started the seeds indoors 4-8 weeks prior, which I knew, but with the new podcast, lots of things fell to the wayside this year.  Old Virginia is supposedly a mid-season tomato but I started late from seed, and my two 12-foot-long raised beds are behind the garage and don’t get maximum sunlight.  I didn’t even pinch any axil buds this year, something I always do.  Anyway, I think we must have picked the first tomato right around September 1.  And now, of course, they’re coming on like gangbusters.  I figured with a name like Old Virginia, this cultivar could take the heat of a Maryland summer, and it has.  This beautiful tomato is also crack-resistant and has fewer seeds than many varieties.  I got my seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Saving seeds is worth it to me, but only if I’m growing heirlooms where I know they’ll reproduce true to the parent.  And it’s important to me to always get an organic seed, especially if I’m going to all the trouble to grow something from seed, and then save the seeds from harvest.  Also, I don’t want to grow GMO.  The flavor of this cultivar is good, although not the best of any heirloom.  However, heirloom tomatoes are often stingy in their production, and prone to cracking and other problems.  I’ve had summers where I have the most delicious heirlooms, but a low yield.  Of course, this beats any restaurant or supermarket tomato to Hell, and the other benefits make this a good, reliable addition to the heirloom tomato catalogue.

On the last episode of the Peaceful Table Podcast, I mentioned a few of my favorite tomato recipes.  Roasted Cream of Tomato SoupFried Green Tomatoes, and a lovely Indian salad called Timatar Ka.
IMG_0697  Fewer seeds than many other tomato varieties.

Vegan Salty Oat Cookie


IMG_0662     Vegan Mofo 2013.  People are crazy for the Salty Oat cookie at Teaism in DC, so here’s a vegan version of that famous confection.  We can be conscious of suffering and still eat amazing sweets, and these wicked-good cookies are proof of that.  In my head, I’m calling them Be-ism cookies, because they let the animals be.


Makes 36 to 45 cookies

1.5 sticks Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, at almost room temperature
1 Cup light brown sugar
1/2 Cup sugar
pinch cinnamon  (1/16th teaspoon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Ener-G Egg Replacer to equal 2 eggs  (1 Tablespoon Ener-G plus 1/4 Cup water)
1.75 Cups flour
2 Cups rolled oats
1/2 Cup golden raisins
fine sea salt for sprinkling  (not kosher salt)

Dry whisk the baking powder and baking soda into the flour.  Then dry whisk the oats into the flour mixture, and set aside.  In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium high for about 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides, add the sugars, cinnamon and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until well mixed, at least 2 minutes.  Add egg replacer and beat another 2 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture and raisins, just until incorporated.  Cover dough and chill for at least one hour, or overnight before baking.  If you’re putting the dough into a container for chilling, do not pack the dough, just put it in there gently.  Do not skip the chilling, or the cookies may spread on the pan during baking.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a Tablespoon for a measure, scoop out the dough and form gently into flattened balls (fat discs).  Do not pack the dough in your hands, be gentle.  Sprinkle each dough ball with fine sea salt, just as you would sugar.  Bake one sheet at a time, for 13-14 minutes, until cookies are beginning to turn golden.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely before storing.

Notes:  I made these cookies smaller than some.  I like the cookies to have a little bit of a crispy edge, so I bake them at least 14 minutes.

Platanos Maduros – Sweet Fried Plantains

IMG_0654    Here we have Platanos Maduros, or sweet fried plantains.  Maduros means “mature” and we’re looking for the almost-black plantains here.  So delicious, and so simple that anyone could do it.   Part of the fun of this is going to the Latin market, but you can now buy plantains at most grocery stores.  I found three good YouTube videos on how to cook plantains.  One by Puerto Rican Style, one by Latin Kitchen, and one by Adriana Lopez (from Venezuela).  Each video has something different to impart.  In the last video, the Platanos Maduros demonstration begins at 5:20.  My friend from Guatemala assured me I didn’t need all that oil–she just uses some cooking spray in a non-stick skillet.


Serves 3 to 4

2 very-ripe plantains, with a lot of black on them
2 Tablespoons peanut oil  (or safflower oil)

In a non-stick skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of peanut oil, over medium heat.
If you want less oil, simply spray the non-stick skillet with cooking spray.
Cut both ends off each plantain.
Make a shallow cut from one end of the plantain to the other, following one of the raised ridges running the length of the plantain.
Using the cut you just made, peel the plantain.
Slice the plantains diagonally, into half-inch-thick pieces.
When the oil is hot, gently place about half of the plantain pieces in the pan, and fry and flip them until they are golden brown.
Immediately place on paper towels and blot them with another paper towel.
Repeat with the 2nd half of the plantain slices.
Serve immediately.  I like to serve these with Vegan Mexican Crema.

Notes:  I’m guessing you could keep these warm for a bit, in a 175 degrees Fahrenheit  oven.  If you buy the plantains very, very ripe (mostly black), you can store them inside a brown paper bag, in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator for another day or two. I do not use canola oil because I don’t like the taste of it when frying things.

Plantains offer many nutritional benefits, including beta carotene, Vitamins C, B1, B3, B6, B12, E, K and folate.  Minerals include iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iodine, phosphorus, chloride and selenium.  They also have Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.  Half of a plantain has about 2 grams of fiber and one gram of protein.

Sesame-Orange-Glazed Tofu Nuggets with Broccoli and Red Bell Pepper

IMG_0643    Here’s a link to a great review of this recipe by Your Vegan Mom.   This recipe is from The Chinese Vegan Kitchen cookbook by Donna Klein.  I’ve made this entire recipe and we liked it a lot.  It’s surprising how you roll the tofu cubes in the sesame seeds before you dredge them, and they do stick, and they don’t burn.  But, as an aside, they do benefit from a sauce–the sauce in this recipe being the perfect one.  However, today, for a quick lunch, and let’s be honest, for mofo, I decided to see how quickly I could get this together.   So, I improvised–I left out the tofu, and just cut up some vegan General Tso’s chicken from Whole Foods.  This saved a lot of time, and you could just throw on some cashews or walnuts instead of the General Tso’s.  I made a packet of Nissin Top Ramen (Oriental flavor, which is animal-free), drained the noodles and split them onto two plates.  I did steam the vegetables, and consider this important.  But people, it’s the sauce that makes this dish, it’s a winner!  I did not deviate from Donna Klein’s sauce, and it doesn’t take long to make.  With this sauce, you can elevate any stir fry!  I probably only used half a teaspoon of oil to sauté the veggies before I added in the sauce.  I used Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce (because I love it), instead of the chili paste called for, but I did cut it down to teaspoons because Lars is a lightweight when it comes to spicy.  Excellent meal in under one hour.   The sauce is mild but very flavorful, with the gentle sweetness of the orange, and the kick of the chili.  I’ve eaten at my share of upscale Chinese restaurants and this dish is comparable.  You can riff on it too, add some fresh grated ginger, mix up the veggies, use some fancy Chinese vinegar, etc.  I can’t wait to try several other recipes from The Chinese Vegan Kitchen cookbook, including the Velvet Corn Soup!

Seitan Bacon

IMG_0623    This Vegan Bacon Seitan is adapted from a combination of two recipes–this one from Vegan Nosh,  and this one from Veggie in Milwaukee.    You make two simple doughs that are easy to work with, stack them atop each other, bake and slice.   We had BLTs on sourdough bread with Old Virginia heirloom tomatoes, and we agreed this tastes more authentic than the store-bought vegan bacons we’ve tried.  It’s been years since I had a piece of bacon, but I remember it well.  I tweaked the original recipes–added some smoked paprika, changed amounts, added some oil (it is bacon, after all), etc.  This is meaty, smoky and chewy, and the best part is, nobody got hurt.


Red Dough
1 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 Cup soy flour  (or garbanzo flour)
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
2 teaspoons regular paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2/3 Cup warm water
3 Tablespoons Tamari
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
2 Tablespoons peanut oil

White Dough
1/2 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten
2 Tablespoons garbanzo flour  (or soy flour)
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 Cup warm water
1 Tablespoon peanut oil

Red Dough:  In a medium mixing bowl, dry whisk together the dry ingredients.
Separately combine all the wet ingredients and stir or whisk until well blended.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until mixed.
Shape red dough into a fat log and cut into three equal pieces.

White Dough:  In a small mixing bowl, dry whisk together the dry ingredients.
To the dry ingredients, add in the water and oil, and stir with a spoon until mixed.
Divide the white dough into two equal pieces.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and put one piece of red dough on it.
Cover the red dough with another piece of plastic wrap.
Gently roll out dough until it’s about 1/4-inch tall.  I suggest making it approx. 6″ x 7″.
Spray a piece of tin foil with cooking spray and transfer the flattened dough onto it.  I did this by picking up the piece of plastic and flipping it onto the foil.
Repeat the rolling process, alternating the white and red doughs, and stacking them onto the first piece that you laid onto the foil.  Don’t try to make them perfect.
Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the stacked doughs.
Rest a medium-heavy book on top of the plastic for about 20 minutes.
Remove the plastic wrap, and wrap the whole slab of bacon in tin foil.
On a baking sheet, bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.
Your seitan will be a bit undercooked, but this is good because it will be easier to slice, and it will pan-fry better.
Cool and slice.

When you’re ready to use the bacon:  pan fry in a non-stick skillet with a bit of vegan butter and a few sprinkles of seasoning salt.  I used McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple Seasoning for some extra bacony kick.

Notes:  It’s my understanding that you can switch up the soy and garbanzo flours.  The red dough won’t look red until you add the liquid.  Once baked, you can freeze this bacon, and it’s good crumbled on casseroles, on mac and cheeze, in tofu breakfast sandwiches, etc.
IMG_0617  After pressing, before baking.

Freezing Herbs – Frozen Herb Cubes

IMG_0607    Vegan Mofo 2013.  I saw this excellent idea for freezing herbs on Pinterest, so looked around at various methods.  I chose this simple recipe for frozen herb cubes because the herbs are slightly blanched in the process, which keeps their colors bright, and kills any little bugs or germs.  Now, when I buy a bunch of parsley or cilantro for a recipe, none of it will go to waste!


old-fashioned ice cube tray
herbs of choice  (basil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, lovage, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme)

Rinse herbs.
Strip leaves away from stems, and discard stems.
Mince herbs finely.
Pack minced herbs into an ice cube tray, each 3/4 full.
Slowly pour boiling water into each cube compartment, just until water comes to the surface of the herbs.
Once the herb cubes are frozen, pop them out of their compartments and quickly into a freezer container, and put back in the freezer.
Use as needed.

Notes:  Here’s a two-minute YouTube video on how to remove leaves from herb stems and how to mince herbs.  Packing the fresh herbs firmly into the ice cube tray will help reduce the amount of water you add to each cube compartment.  When thawing, be mindful of any additional water in the herb cubes.  You may wish to let the cubes thaw and drain off any excess water.  For most dishes, though, this small amount of water won’t matter.

Easy Fig Jam with Lemon and Sesame

IMG_0598    Vegan Mofo 2013.  For weeks, we’ve been having a contest to see who could get to the figs first–me or The Squirrels.  As you can imagine, the Squirrels are way ahead, but I did manage to snag a pound a half of these White Italian Honey Figs, and make some easy, vegan fig jam.  This fig jam is great with salty crackers on a vegan cheese board.  You can double this recipe, and you can use any type of figs–I’ve also made it with Brown Turkey figs.


Makes about two 8-ounce jars.

1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup sugar
1.5 pounds ripe figs, rinsed
zest from one organic lemon
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (no more)
1 Tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted

In a small skillet over medium heat, toast sesame seeds, shaking the pan gently until seeds turn golden.  Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, simmer water and sugar, until sugar is dissolved.
Cut each fig into about 8 pieces.
Into the sugar-water, add zest and lemon juice and figs.
Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy, 1.5 to 2 hours.
Stir in sesame seeds.
If you want to, you can now use a potato masher to break up some of the fig pieces.
I like a mixed consistency.
Let cool a bit and then ladle into heavy little canning jars.
When fully cool, cap the jars.
Keep in fridge for one month, or put in freezer for up to six months.

Notes:  I’ve tried making this with stevia, and did not like the flavor at all.  One time I added extra lemon, but that made it taste kind of like Pledge, so keep it subtle.  I also tried adding more sesame seeds, but it was too much, threw the balance off.  This fig jam is great with salty crackers and vegan cheeses.  If you need to collect figs over 2 or 3 days, gently rinse and dry them, and keep them in a covered container in the refrigerator until you get enough.
IMG_0579  White Italian Honey Figs

IMG_0510  Here’s my haul from day one.  It took me two more days to steal enough from the squirrels to make jam.

IMG_0591  The picture of health, but not ripe yet.

IMG_0589  This fig tree gets cut back each Spring and then it grows about 4-6 feet in one season.  You can see it towering over our one-story garage roof here.  This fig tree faces SW, and is protected from wind by the garage.

Ramen Salad with Slivered Almonds

IMG_0576    Vegan Mofo 2013.  This fun salad is popular in Hawaii.  The almonds and noodles are toasted, and provide a great contrast with the cool, crunchy cabbage and sweet carrot. The dry broth packet helps to flavor the simple dressing, along with some rice wine vinegar and a bit of sugar.  From what I’ve read online, it seems Top Ramen in the Oriental Flavor does not have any animal products in it.  (one more photo below)


Serves approx. 4-6,  depending upon how much cabbage you use.

1 pkg. Nissin Top RamenOriental Flavor only
1/4 Cup slivered almonds
1 pkg. slaw mix,  or shaved fresh cabbage and 1 or 2 grated carrots
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons rice vinegar  (I use the un-flavored one, such as Marukan)
2 teaspoons sugar

Break up dry ramen noodles and put on baking sheet with the almonds.
Put under broiler on 2nd rack from top, to toast for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes until golden. Stir.
These can burn quickly, so don’t walk away.
If you don’t have a broiler, bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 to 10 minutes, baking first for 5 minutes and then checking every couple of minutes.

In small shaker jar put oil, vinegar, sugar and dry broth packet from Ramen. Shake.
Or you can stir it in a glass.

Wait until ready to eat, then toss vegetables with the toasted noodles and almonds.  Drizzle on the dressing by the Tablespoon, and toss and taste to see how much you like.
Serve immediately.

Notes:  If you toss the salad with the dressing too early, the salad will wilt and be limp.  I use a little latte frother for salad dressings like this.  I like to start breaking up the noodles before I open the ramen packet, just by bending it gently between my hands.   I think I normally use about 1/4 to 1/3 of a green cabbage and grate one large carrot.  It makes a lot!  I’m guessing this dressing is enough for about 1/2 of a medium green cabbage.  I guess the Chili flavor also has no animal products, but I have not tried that one.

Bangkok Street Cart Noodles

IMG_0437    This recipe for vegan Bangkok Street Cart Noodles is slightly adapted from the March/April 2012 issue of VegNews.  To me, it tastes like a good Pad Thai.  If you make your sauce and chop all your veggies ahead of time, it’s much quicker to throw together at dinnertime.  Both Lars and I loved this dish.  Instead of cubed tofu, I sometimes just use the vegan General Tso’s Chicken from Whole Foods, which also saves time.


Serves 4

1.5 packages Kame brand Japanese curly noodles (Chuka Soba)
(or thin rice noodles, maybe vermicelli, not sure)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon sweet chili sauce  (I use Mae Ploy brand, a Thai brand w/garlic already in it)
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon tamarind concentrate
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice  (or juice of one lime)
¼ Cup soy sauce or Tamari
1.5 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
½ Cup vegetable broth  (I use Better Than Bouillon, the organic/vegetable base one)

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (safflower or peanut or grapeseed oil)  (not canola)
12 oz. pkg. Tofu, pressed and cubed into ½” dice.   (or General Tso’s vegan chicken from Whole Foods, slice pieces in half)
2 bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips or tiny dice
1 Cup of some other vegetable here, such as snow peas, fresh corn off the cob, chopped kale, etc.
4 green onions, sliced into thin rings.  Use all the white parts and only half of the green parts

plenty of fresh lime wedges, at least two limes worth
3/4 Cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
Fresh cilantro, chopped.  About ½ Cup.
Sprouts, rinsed well and dried.  About 1 Cup  (optional)

Cook noodles according to package.   Rinse noodles in cold water, drain well and toss noodles with 2 teaspoons sesame oil, and set aside.
In a jar, combine chili sauce, hoisin, tomato paste, tamarind, cornstarch, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, tamari, ginger and broth.  Mix well and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 Tablespoon oil, and fry tofu cubes until browned.   Remove tofu from skillet and set aside.
Add all sauce, seitan (if using), bell pepper, any other vegetables (if using), and green onions, and stir fry one minute.    Add noodles back into skillet and stir to coat.
Serve immediately, with lots of fresh lime wedges, chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro, and optional bean sprouts.

Notes:  Prep as much as you can.  I make the sauce ahead to save time, and keep it in the fridge.  I think the original recipe just called for “rice noodles” but am not sure.  If the cooked noodles sit too long, they can clump together, so don’t prepare them more than an hour ahead.
IMG_2668  My favorite tamarind concentrate

Caramelized Green Beans With Pine Nuts

IMG_0516    Vegan Mofo 2013.  This fast, easy dish is also a little bit elegant.  The skinnier beans get a bit more caramelized while the fatter beans stay closer to their original state.  Creamy pine nuts are thrown right in with the beans to toast in the last five minutes of cooking–no separate pan to wash or take up a burner.  I reduced the fat, and substituted in Earth Balance Buttery Spread.  This is a good dish to make while you’re working on other food in the kitchen, because it cooks in the pan for about 30 minutes.  Prep time is minimal.  This is adapted from an old Martha Stewart Recipe.   p.s.  My photo shows more pine nuts than the recipe calls for.


Serves 4

2 teaspoons Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 pounds green beans, washed, stem ends removed
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
sea salt
pepper (if desired)
lemon wedges  (optional, this was not part of the original recipe)

In a large skillet, heat vegan butter and oil over medium-low heat
Add green beans, partially cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until beans are tender and brown in spots, about 30 minutes.
Add pine nuts, and cook until nuts are toasted, about 5 more minutes.
Season with sea salt and pepper.
Serve with lemon wedges.

Ep. 005 – Vegan Personal Products


Welcome to the Peaceful Table podcast, where we talk about vegan cooking and lifestyle.  This is the Vegan Personal Products show.  However, we’re also going to talk about some of my favorite Tomato recipes,  I’ll tell you about one of my favorite cookbooks,  a fascinating documentary, and a whole lot more.


Personal Products Brands that DO test on animals.
Personal Product Brands that do NOT test on animals.
Alba Botanica Hawaiian Hibiscus Facial Toner.
Thayers Alcohol Free Toner.
Desert Essence Pomegranate Face Serum.
Alba Botanica Even Advanced Daily Cream (too perfumey but works great).
Borage Therapy Facial Moisturizer by Shikai.
Crystal Deodorant.
DIY deodorant.
Summer Spice Roll-On Deodorant by Nature’s Gate.
Tom’s Long Lasting Wild Lavender Deodorant  (24 Hour).
Desert Essence Sweet Almond Hand and Body Lotion.
Desert Essence Perfect Pistachio Foot Repair Cream.
Nature’s Gate Papaya Moisturizing Lotion.
Organic Fiji Body Lotions  (shop around for price).
Desert Essence Tea Tree Shampoo.
Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa Shampoo.  Video about this shampoo.
Desert Essence Jojoba Shampoo.
Nature’s Gate Hemp Shampoo.
Nature’s Gate Chamomile Shampoo.
Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Almond Pure Castile Soap (DIY shampoo).
Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa Conditioner.
Trader Joe’s Refresh Citrus Conditioner (for short hair, not the best detangler).
Nature’s Gate Chamomile Conditioner.
Nature’s Gate Hemp Conditioner.
Tom’s of Maine Soap bars.  (two-packs from Target)
Trader Joe’s Oatmeal Exfoliant Ginger Almond Soap bar.
Kiss My Face soap bar.  Not my fave, but vegan and good ratings on Skin Deep EWG.
Nubian Heritage Soaps.  Not all of them are vegan, please read my blog post on link.
Verve Soap bars by Whole Foods  (three packs).  Good price.
Dr. Bronner’s bar soaps.
Documentary:  Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox
Toothpaste RDA (Abrasivity Chart) (with video)
Toothpaste, all non-fluoride:  Weleda  (the salt one is not vegan, supposedly)
Toothpaste for kids, Tom’s of Maine:  Outrageous Orange Mango, Silly Strawberry, Wicked Cool Mild Mint  (all with or without fluoride, check box carefully).  Some of the Tom’s non-fluorides are NOT vegan, so please check for propolis, a bee products.
Tom’s Cavity Protection Formula,  Peppermint Baking Soda w/ fluoride.  RDA 100-130.
Tom’s Wicked Fresh, Cool Peppermint or Spearmint Ice, w/fluoride.  RDA 100-130.
Colgate Total Toothpaste, Clean Mint.  I do NOT recommend any toothpaste that says “Tartar Control” or “Whitening.”  Notes that there are various Colgate Totals.  I do not know if Colgate Total Mint Stripe is too abrasive or not.  I do not know if Colgate Total Advanced Gum Defense is too abrasive or not either.  The plain Colgate Total Clean Mint says “Gently Cleans” on the label so I assume this is the one recommended in the video linked above.
Preserve Toothbrushes.
Hummus and Tabouleh from Lebanese Café in Annapolis.
Veg DC guide to vegan eats in Washington DC area, by districts.
Vegetarian Guide to Baltimore.
T-Shirt by C.O.K.  (soft, organic cotton)  Soft black.
No Poo method of washing your hair,  video.
Flax Seed Hair Gel,  video.
Flax Seed Hair Gel, featuring Black hair,  video.
Book/novel.  The Lonely Polygamist  by  Brady Udall.
Book/novel.  The 19th Wife  by  David Ebershoff.
Cookbook:  My Bread  by  Jim Lahey.
Recipe:  Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup.
Recipe:  Fried Green Tomatoes.
Recipe:  Timatar Ka.  Indian tomato salad.
Recipe:  Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes.
Recipes:  Vegan Cheese Ball.

Vegan Cheese Ball

IMG_0307    This recipe is straight from Josh Latham of My Vegan Cookbook.  And it’s really good!   For me, Josh’s original recipe here has a flavor reminiscent of mild cheddar, but with the texture of goat cheese.  Josh has suggested variations such as Black Pepper & Rosemary, or Hawaiian-style (with Baco Bits and Pineapple).  However, I’m thinking a swirl of reduced port wine would be just the thing to mix into this vegan cheese ball, especially for the holidays.  The only thing I did differently was to soak the almonds overnight, just to make them a bit creamier.  Josh seems to have a way with making decadent food that’s also healthy, and this easy vegan cheeze ball is no exception.  p.s.  I made another one of Josh’s recipes for Vegan Mofo last year, his Salted Caramel Popcorn.


1 Cup slivered and blanched almonds
1/4 Cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 of a 14 oz. block of firm tofu  (refrigerated kind, well drained)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon canola oil  (I used grapeseed)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoons fresh chives  (I like 2 teaspoons)
3/4 Cup finely chopped walnuts  (to coat outside)

(I soak the almonds in a jar of filtered water overnight, but this is my optional step.)
Place almonds and pine nuts in food processor with salt and sugar, and blend for about 2 minutes until clumps start to form.

Measure 1/3 of a block of tofu from a 14-ounce block.  It’s important to use firm tofu.  Silken or extra-firm tofu will not work.  An average block of tofu is about 4.5 inches long, so measure 1.5 inches off.  Drain tofu in a strainer by smashing and pressing firmly.  Using a clean lint-free dish towel to soak up some of the water also helps.  It’s important to get as much water as you can out.   (I just used a Tofu Xpress instead).

Now add the tofu to the almond and pine-nut paste that’s already in the food processor, along with the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oil and onion powder, and blend about two minutes.  Mixture should resemble extra-thick mashed potatoes.

Add chives to food processor and pulse them into the mixture, just until distributed.

Spray a small bowl and a square of plastic wrap with cooking oil spray.  Press mixture into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in fridge and let this chill for at least five hours or overnight.  It will get nice and firm and can now be shaped into a ball and rolled in chopped walnuts to coat.  If you lightly oil your hands, it will keep it from sticking to your hands while you roll.  (I did not bother oiling my hands and did not need to, it was not sticky.)

Here are Josh’s variations on the same recipe.  Just leave the chives out and add:

Black Pepper & Rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Coat with pine nuts or chopped walnuts.
1 Tablespoon Baco Bits
1 Tablespoon pineapple, well-drained and finely chopped
Coat with chopped pecans that have been lightly coated with maple syrup and toasted until crispy on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven.

Notes:  I’d like to do a port-wine reduction and swirl it through the cheese mixture (by pulsing it in the food processor) before the initial chilling.  I made this two days in advance, with great results.

Vegan Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes

IMG_0247   If you ever enjoyed the Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes from The Cheesecake Factory, you might also like these easy, delicious, vegan versions.  I whip up some quick Romesco Sauce to go with them, which really bumps up the protein, but you could use any topping you like.  Even just some vegan sour cream with chopped cilantro would be great.  I only make these when fresh local corn is in season.


Makes 10

1/2 Cup corn flour
1/2 Cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil  (I used safflower oil)
1 Cup Lite coconut milk
2 Cups grated zucchini  (about one medium-to-large zucchini, peeled)
2 Cups fresh corn, cut off the cobs  (about 5 ears of corn)
1-2 Tablespoons chopped chives  (or a chopped shallot)

Make your sauce, and set in fridge to chill  (I made this Romesco Sauce).
In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix oil, coconut milk, zucchini, corn and chives.
Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir gently but well with a wooden spoon.
Brush large, non-stick skillet with one teaspoon of oil, and set on almost-medium heat.
Using a 1/3 Cup measure for each cake,  pour out three cakes into skillet.
Cook about 5-6 minutes, until the cakes move when you shake the pan.
Carefully flip,  and cook other side.
Keep warm in 175 degrees Fahrenheit oven.
Serve with Romesco Sauce,  or vegan sour cream and chopped cilantro,  etc.

For reasons of flavor, I do not recommend using canola oil.

Ep. 004 – Vegan Makeup Marathon


This is the Vegan Makeup Marathon.  However, we’re also going to talk about some of my favorite summertime recipes, and a couple of cookbooks.  I’ll tell you about the letter I wrote to my local newspaper, a fun, new vegan podcast, and some free vegan apps.  We’ll also talk about some great beach reads,  and some books for kids too.  All kinds of good stuff.  MAKEUP LISTED BELOW IS NOT IN ORDER OF MY FAVORITES, but they are all Thumbs Up.   For discussion of favorites and individual colors, please listen to the show.

Table of State Laws That Protect Animals in Parked Cars.
Humane Society Flyer:  Don’t Leave Your Pet In A Parked Car.
ASPCA Flyer:  Pets In Hot Cars
Companies That DO Test On Animals.   Companies That Do NOT Test On Animals.
The Body Shop vegan policy.    Animal Ingredients List.    Happy Cow Animal Ingredient List.    Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.    Buycott app.    Cruelty Free app.   Animal Free app.    Leaping Bunny Logo.    Peta Cruelty Free Logo  and  Cruelty Free And Vegan Logo.

BLUSH.  Wet n Wild Color Icon Blusher –  832E and 833E.    e.l.f. Studio Blush – all colors.
BRUSHES.  e.l.f. brushes – Studio line only!     EcoTools Makeup Brushes.
FOUNDATIONS.    Mineral Fusion Pressed Powder Foundation.    Zuzu Luxe Dual Powder Foundation.    Zuzu Luxe Oil-Free Liquid Foundation.    Wet n Wild Ultimate Match Foundation SPF 15.    Wet n Wild Intuitive Blend Shade-Adjusting Foundation+Primer.    Wet n Wild Coverall Cream Foundation.    e.l.f. Studio Flawless Finish Foundation.
EYES.  Wet n Wild Color Icon Brow & Eye Liner – 650D-663C only!
Wet n Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Trio – 331, 380B and 385B only!
Wet n Wild Mega Protein Mascara.
Wet n Wild Mega Volume Mascara.
Wet n Wild  Mega Plump Mascara.   Be careful, not all Wet n Wild products are vegan and some of their mascaras are not vegan.
LIPS.    Wet n Wild Color Icon Lip Pencils – 664C-666 only!
Wet n Wild Silk Finish Lipstick – 505A-553B only!
Wet n Wild Mega Last Lip Color – 900B-919B only!  Mega Last Liquid Lip Colors are not vegan.   e.l.f. Studio Matte Lip Color.
MISC.  e.l.f. Essential Shine Eraser.    Eye Makeup Remover = coconut oil!    e.l.f. Essential Eyeshadow Applicators.    e.l.f. Studio Translucent Matifying Powder.
Crazy Rumors Lip Balm.
NAILS.  ZoyaNo MissWet n Wild Mega Last Nail Color.    Wet n Wild Fast Dry Nail ColorZoya Remove Plus Nail Polish RemoverNo Miss Almost Natural Polish Remover.    Vegan Claws.     Vegan Claws Autumnal Manicure.

Wet n Wild Vegan List  (such as it is).  Please note that NOT all Wet n Wild products are vegan.

YOU TUBE:  Grace’s Most Used Vegan Products.    Make Your Own Makeup!
Raw Organic Makeup Tutorial.

BOOKS:   The Seal Wife  by  Kathryn Harrison.    Consumption  by  Kevin Patterson.
The Beginner’s Goodbye  by  Anne Tyler.    The Outside World  by  Tova Mirvis.
BOOKS FOR KIDS:   Unspoken  by  Henry Cole.  The Beetle Book  by  Steve Jenkins.
Stellaluna  by  Janell Cannon.


Tick Tock Organic Insect Repellent.    Tovolo Ice Pop Molds.

We talked about boycotting any events that exploit animals, such as Kentucky Derby parties, and I read the letter that I sent to my local newspaper on this subject.

We also talked about summertime recipes and cookbooks.  Grilled Portobello MushroomsBaked Corn On The CobGrilled Corn On The CobSuper Simple Raspberry Sorbet.

Mineral Fusion Vegan List as of June 18, 2013:  All  Pressed, Loose, and Sheer Tint Bases, Concealers, Mascaras, Eye Pencils, Shampoos and Conditioners Body Washes, and Blotting Papers.  Eye Shadows and Trios: Buff, Prism, Rare, Raw, Sultry, Imagine,  and Stunning.   Lip Gloss: Sheen, Captivate, Reflect, Enlighten, and Polished.   Lip Pencils: Burnish and Graceful.   Skin Care: Eye and Age-Defying Treatments, Renewing Facial Scrub,  Soothing Toner, Mattifying Oil-Control, Skin-Balancing, and SPF 40 Moisturizers, Intense Hydration Cream, and the SPF 30 Brush On Sun Defense.   Nail Polishes.   Please note that not all MF products are vegan!


IMG_0159     Bananas and flax seeds are some of the best egg replacers around, so there are no eggs in this recipe (not that we need them any anyway).  Flaxseed meal is simply ground up flax seeds, one of the best sources for Omega 3 essential fatty acids.  I use Florida Crystals brand brown sugar.  Florida Crystals is the first and only certified organic sugar made in the United States!  Unlike most other sugars, It’s processed without bone char or any other animal products, and it is not genetically modified.  Either way, this delectable banana bread is easy enough for kids to make, and is great either served as a dessert, or smeared with peanut butter or Earth Balance organic whipped vegan butter.  p.s.  I love walnuts and dates in this bread, but you don’t have to put them in.

BANANA FLAXSEED QUICK BREAD  (with optional walnuts and dates)

Yield:  one loaf

1 Cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 Cup Spelt flour
1 Cup Florida Crystals Brown Sugar  (packed) (or demerara)
2.5 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (or regular salt)
3/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Flax Meal
1/4 Cup Safflower oil  (or other oil)
1/2 Cup apple sauce
1/2 Cup almond milk  (or other plant milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup banana, mashed well  (approx. 2 bananas)
1/2 Cup finely chopped walnuts  (optional)
3-4 dried dates, pitted and diced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.    Grease one regular sized loaf pan with Earth Balance Buttery Sticks.    In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
If using the walnuts and/or dates, add them to dry ingredients now, and stir.
In another bowl, mix together the plant milk, oil, applesauce, vanilla and mashed bananas.    Gradually stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, just until incorporated.
Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan.    Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.    Cool pan on a rack for 5 minutes.    Invert pan onto rack until loaf pops out, and then invert bread again, so it’s right-side-up.    Cool on rack completely.

Notes:  Stirring the walnuts and dates into the dry ingredients just before adding the wet gets them coated with flour which should help prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the loaf during baking.  In the Fall, you could replace the Cinnamon with Pumpkin Pie Spice.  I like to keep a six-pack of 4 oz. organic applesauce cups in the pantry, to replace some or all of the oil in baking recipes.  I use an old-fashioned potato masher to mash the bananas on a cutting board until they are a fine consistency.   p.s.  If you want to go crazy, add in 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric for an enhanced golden color and natural anti-inflammatory for the body.


IMG_0112   This recipe is from the Peas and Thank You vegan cookbook  by Sarah Matheny.  I first heard about it on the Indy Vegan Family podcast.    This is possibly more of a cold-weather recipe as it has beautiful, warming spices, but I needed something to make for supper that night and had all the ingredients.  It was quick to put together, and it made a lot, so I froze some for quick lunches.  Lars ate two bowls.  It’s a nice, rich soup, so packed with protein and fiber that you won’t be hungry until the next day.  I put a spoonful of peanut butter right in the center of my steaming bowl of stew, and it was so good.  A few salted peanuts scattered over it as a garnish made it even more decadent, and perhaps it’s a good idea anyway so people can see that it does contain peanuts.   The recipe as written below reflects my own changes to a few of the spice amounts, and I added in a bit of turmeric.  You can’t taste the turmeric, but it’s great for a golden color, and it reduces inflammation in the body.  Thanks, Indy Vegan Family, for putting out a fun podcast to listen to and sharing your recipe reviews too!


Serves:  8

14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 sweet potato, cubed into 1/4 inch dice (no larger)
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons fresh, grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed/crushed,  or minced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
14 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes,  in juice
14 oz. can light coconut milk
2 Cups vegetable stock  (I used Better Than Bouillon)
2 Tablespoons natural peanut butter
1/2 Cup red lentils,  picked over and rinsed  (you can substitute quinoa)

Optional garnishes:  chopped cilantro,  salted or chopped peanuts,  dairy-free sour cream, or dairy-free yogurt.  You could also offer Sriracha for those who like it hotter.

In a small stock pot, combine all ingredients and simmer on stove top for 30 minutes.
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and turn on high for 30 minutes.
Then switch to low for 3 to 4 hours.
Serve, and pass garnishes at the table.

Notes:  Upon reheating, you can add in some extra liquid if necessary.  Also, if you want a creamier soup, you can always puree a portion of it in the blender and then add it back in.  It’s fairly flexible, I might throw in an extra can of tomatoes next time.  Also, I’ll try making a cool cilantro/yogurt to dollop on top, dairy free of course.

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

IMG_0089  From the library, I borrowed Chloe’s Vegan Desserts by Chloe Coscarelli.   Had to get it through interlibrary loan, and order it twice, but it finally arrived.  These Salted Caramel Cupcakes were very easy to make, despite the caramel flavor achieved in the frosting.  I’ve never wanted to fuss with caramel since those recipes normally involve the words “candy thermometer” but this could not have been easier.  I pre-measured the dry ingredients one day, and made the frosting and put that in the fridge.  So when it came time to actually make the cupcakes, it went very fast, had them in the oven within 30 minutes.  No eggs here, Chloe uses her signature baking soda and vinegar combo instead.  They rose just fine and tasted great.  I sprinkled the frosted cupcakes with a few crystals of Pyramid Salt that I picked up years ago from Fauchon in Paris, but any nice finishing salt would do.   I’d avoid kosher salt, however, for its strong chemical taste.  Ok, so the flavor was perfect, fairly gourmet and a bit different.  My only complaint is that the bottoms of the cupcakes themselves were a bit oily.  Next time, I would sub out half the oil and add in some applesauce to replace it.  It also made too much frosting, so I put at least a cup of frosting in the freezer.  Next time, I would also make sure to spray the paper baking cups with cooking spray, as there was a bit of sticking on the sides, despite the slight-oily quality of the cake bottoms.  But, with these small changes, I would definitely make these for an occasion, such as a birthday, book club, or a dinner party–very good!  You must keep these in the fridge since the frosting is buttercream, so make sure they come to room temperature before serving.   p.s.  Don’t think I’m being harsh–these cupcakes (as per the original recipe) still beat any restaurant cupcake to hell.


IMG_0071  In an effort to stay away from products tested on animals, I tried various vegan deodorants on the market, and they all came up short.  I was ok with the crystal deodorant I had been using, but then I saw online that it’s actually made of a type of aluminum.  I looked on Pinterest for homemade deodorants and noticed one common recipe coming up with rave reviews by different bloggers.  So, I had all the ingredients, and gave it a shot, and . . . it works like a charm.  I didn’t go as far as one person went, where she didn’t bathe for a few days and it still worked.  However, I did wear it when I went to walk dogs at the Humane Society one hot, sunny, still Thursday afternoon.  After the 5th dog, I was standing in the shade, perspiring away.  When I got home, I went to change my shirt and gave myself a sniff . . . . no odor at all.  It’s like a neutralizer, I guess.  Even my shirt still smelled good and clean.  I changed it anyway since it drives my own pup nuts to smell a bunch of other dogs on me, but I wouldn’t have had to otherwise.  So, it’s cheap, it’s healthy, it takes 5 minutes to make, and it reduces the chemical soup we all find ourselves in by the time we put on our pajamas.  It’s also a form of activism where we are not supporting the systematic torture of the innocent.  What’s not to like?


1/4 Cup organic, unrefined, virgin coconut oil
1/4 Cup baking soda
1/4 Cup corn starch
10 drops of essential oil  (optional).  I used Aura Cacia Organic 100% pure essential oil of grapefruit peel.  To avoid any possible sensitive skin reactions, omit the essential oil.

In your smallest saucepan, heat the coconut oil on low, and don’t walk away.
Once the oil is melted, take it off the heat  (it will melt very quickly, in about a minute).
In a small mixing bowl, dry whisk the baking soda and corn starch until well combined.
Optional:  once the coconut oil has cooled a bit, add in 10 drops of scented oil and stir  with a wooden spoon.
Pour dry ingredients into the coconut oil and stir well.
Pour into a small, heavy glass jar and chill in the fridge if you like.
Once the coconut oil is set, place the jar in your bathroom, ready to use after a shower.
After a shower, rub the deodorant all around each underarm, in a wide circle.  I use somewhere between 1/4 teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon per armpit, maybe closer to 1/4 teaspoon, I don’t know.

Notes:  This coconut oil melts at 76 degrees Fahrenheit.  This is good to know in case your house is kept at 80 degrees or above.  My house is kept around 76-78 degrees, and so I keep my jar in the medicine cabinet, which is slightly cooler than the bathroom itself.  It’s a great consistency when I go to use it, soft but not liquid, and it blends right into damp underarms right after a shower.  Dr. Bronner’s Unrefined Organic Virgin Coconut OIl is also Fair Trade, but there are a couple of other brands.   Instead of the essential oil, you could put in a couple of drops of Tea Tree oil, if you want extra anti-bacterial properties.  For safety reasons, I suggest a little 8 oz. canning jar.  I happen to be using a 4 oz. wide-mouth jar from Penzey’s.  It’s important to note, that if you go cold turkey off commercial antiperspirants, your armpits will possibly stream sweat for a few days, cleaning the pores out.  For me, this tapered off and stopped pretty quickly, and then I wondered why I hadn’t done this years ago!

Vegan Chicken Gyro Sandwiches

IMG_9994  I’ve loved Greek food since I was in my 20’s, and these really satisfy something I’d been missing.  These were quick to make and so good, and lasted for several lunches for me and Lars.  The main ingredient is Beyond Meat vegan chicken.    Dressed with my own vegan Tzatziki Sauce, and Pickled Red Onions, they’re kind of special.


one package Beyond Meat vegan chicken, Lightly Seasoned flavor
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
vegan Tzatziki Sauce
Pickled Red Onions
Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
shredded lettuce
tortillas or flat bread

Slice vegan chickn slices in half the long way, to make them skinnier.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil, tiny throw in a pinch of salt too.
Saute the vegan chicken on medium heat, just until some color arrives.
Make your sandwiches!  I like to make a bed of lettuce, load up the Tzatziki sauce, layer on the chickn and then dress with onions and Kalamata olives.

Yuba Barbecue Ribs

IMG_9975This recipe for BBQ Yuba ribs caught my eye on Pinterest.    There are also other recipes for barbecue Yuba ribs, like this one and this one.  I have this 1981 cookbook called Kathy Cooks Naturally  by  Kathy Hoshijo.  Kathy had a TV show on PBS back in the 1980’s, called Kathy’s Kitchen.  The cookbook is not vegan but it’s perhaps closer to vegan than vegetarian, and a lot of the recipes are already vegan and do not need to be converted.   Other recipes are converted simply by switching in agave or plant milk.  I don’t think she has any eggs in this book either.  So, back to our main ingredient–Yuba.  Yuba is a by-product of soybeans.  When soy milk is heated, a thin film forms on the surface, and this is Yuba.  Yuba can be fresh, half-dried or completely dried.  The dried form is often available in Oriental grocery stores and can be labeled as “Bean Curd” and are available in sheets and sticks and rolls.  Fresh Yuba is highly prized in Japan, and dried Yuba is about 50% protein and rich in minerals.  Monks have eaten Yuba for centuries to maintain a compassionate and healthful diet.  So, in Kathy Cooks Naturally, she has Yuba recipes for Yuba Chips, Mock Bacon, Yuba Seaweed Rolls, Mock Peking Duck, Monk’s Ham, Yuba Sausage, Southern Fried Chicken, Festive Mock Stuffed Turkey, Yuba Vegetable Rolls and Monk’s Chicken.  On to the BBQ!  This is my very first time making Yuba and it was quick and easy, and I can see how versatile this food is.  The whole package was $2.50 and could easily feed 3-4 people as a main dish, depending on who you’re feeding.   I followed Miyoko Schinner’s recipe pretty much, except I switched in a bottle of store-bought BBQ sauce, and reduced the oil.  This is a fast, delicious main dish, but I agree with Miyoko, these vegan ribs would make great football food too.  And yes, good enough to serve for company.


Serves 3-4


1 package Yuba dried bean curd sticks (see photo below)  (5.3 oz. pkg.)
1 bottle Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce
2 Tablespoons peanut oil, or safflower oil (or some other oil suitable for high heat)

Place Yuba sticks in a 13-inch glass baking dish and cover with water
(the Yuba will float at first,  but it will settle down).
Cover baking dish and place in refrigerator overnight.

The next day:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
With scissors, cut Yuba sticks into 5-inch or 6-inch sections.
Remove Yuba from water, drain it and place it on a plate.
Wash and dry the baking dish, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Put 1 Tablespoon of the oil onto the parchment paper and rub it around.
Pour BBQ sauce into a large bowl and stir the remaining Tablespoon of oil into it.
Toss the drained Yuba sticks into the BBQ/oil sauce and mix until well coated.
Lay coated Yuba sticks onto the oiled parchment paper in the baking dish.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, turn Yuba ribs over and brush them with remaining BBQ/oil sauce.
Bake another 15 minutes.
It’s good if the ribs are a bit blackened in a few spots.
Although Miyoko Schinner’s original recipe says they should be “somewhat” firm, don’t try to get the ribs totally firm.

IMG_9967  This is how I bought the Yuba from the Asian Food Center, at 2505 N. Salisbury Boulevard, in Salisbury, Maryland.

IMG_9974  Yuba sticks after soaking overnight, and draining.

Sweet and Sticky Cashew Tofu

IMG_9855I made this last night for dinner and can attest that it is delicious.  This recipe is by Erin at Olives for Dinner.  Why can’t I get a dish like this in my local Chinese restaurant, waah.    The only thing I would do differently next time is run the noodles through the sauce, or fry the cooked noodles in the pan for a minute.  I used Kame brand Japanese Curly Noodles (chukka soba) and they were perfect for this dish.  p.s.  I used white button mushrooms and salted cashews from a can, because that’s what I had on hand, and it was still great!

Vegan’s Daily Companion by Colleen Patrick Goudreau

This is a most beautiful book that I picked up at Borders Books in Annapolis the other day.  I know this is mostly a food blog, but this book is food for the soul, and food for thought.  The author’s amazing podcast on itunes is called “Vegetarian Food for Thought” and it is nothing short of life-changing.  On, you can search inside the book and there are recipes, short stories of hope, classic tales, facts about food and all manner of other things to enjoy, one page per day.  Yes, the idea with this book is to read one little page per day, in correlation to whatever day of the year it is, and change your life in doing so.  And when we change our lives, we also change the world!  This book has it’s own web site, too.