Celebrating Turkeys

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

For all who celebrate this holiday, there is great joy in taking a step back from our outrageously busy schedules to gather with loved ones and give thanks for our myriad blessings in this life.

For many, however, there is also a sense of sadness for the 46 million turkeys that lose their lives each year in the name of tradition.

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This was my submission this
 year to the 46millionturkeys exhibit at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, Maine.  I chose to portray white turkeys (the kind raised for slaughter) rather than wild turkeys (the kind most often [misleadingly] depicted in Thanksgiving-related graphics).

I understand the importance of tradition, really I do.  I grew up in a house with two religions and two nationalities; a huge part of my upbringing consisted of sharing, understanding, and celebrating different traditions.

But I also believe that traditions can, and should, evolve and change based on the development of society and social consciousness.  It is not mandatory that a holiday designed to celebrate life, gratitude, and family relationships must have a symbol of death as its very centerpiece.  There are other ways to show your appreciation for life’s bounties.

I am starting a new tradition of celebrating turkeys rather than celebrating the consumption of a turkey.   Today I am sharing my celebration on the Chic Vegan blog.  Click here to read the post and to learn how to make this silly little guy:
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Wishing everyone a peaceful and joyful holiday.

Plant Based on a Budget Challenge

[I pre-scheduled this post for today because it was important to me that it go up before the holiday.  But I promise an update on last night’s vegan Thanksgiving dinner is coming soon!  In the meantime, enjoy, and definitely scroll down for some new recipes, including Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie!]

This month, the folks over at Plant Based on a Budget have offered the challenge of designing 100% plant-based meal plans within a budget of $25 per person per week.  Today, I am participating in this challenge by providing a 7-day meal plan that will feed three meals a day to two adults within this budget.

For those who don’t know, Plant Based on a Budget is an incredible resource for affordable plant-based eating.  Its contributors are working hard to dispel the myth that a vegan diet is expensive and unrealistic for the majority of Americans, particularly those living on a limited income.

This is actually a topic about which I feel very strongly.   The truth is that a well-designed plant-based diet is not only extremely affordable but also provides outstanding nutrition.  Better education and awareness about this could help to address and alleviate the rampant malnutrition in our country’s low-income population.

Needless to say, I am thrilled to participate in this challenge.  Particularly as most of us prepare for a day or entire weekend of gorging ourselves on an excessive amount of food, it is important to remember that not everyone is as fortunate.

Thanks 2 003[Sidenote: I didn’t feel like trolling Google images looking for non-copyrighted graphics, and this is the best I could come up with on short notice using only three colors of pen!]

As I mentioned, the meal plan outlined below will feed three meals a day to two adults for seven days, and is of course completely plant-based.  The total cost of ingredients used to make these meals is $42.25.  A breakdown of ingredients by price is included below the seven-day plan.  If you would like to see meal plans created by other contributors (including menus for up to 4 people), please visit the Plant Based on a Budget blog.

I managed to design this plan without deviating much from my usual style, that is: 1) buying stuff that’s on sale and/or comparison shopping, because like all red-blooded Americans, I like to save money; 2) making frequent (but hopefully not boring!) use of leftovers; and 3) making things that come together fairly quickly on a weeknight and also pack up easily for workday lunches.

Day One:
Whole wheat English muffin, with 1 tbsp. peanut butter and ½ banana, sliced
Baked Marinated Tofu (2 strips) on whole wheat bread (2 slices), apple
Hearty Chipotle Chili with Skillet Cornbread

Baked Marinated Tofu (make this the night before): Drain and press a block of firm or extra-firm tofu, then slice it into strips (8 strips per block).  Make the marinade by combining 6 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce, 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 1 tsp. sesame oil in a shallow dish.  Add tofu strips and marinate in refrigerator for one hour, flipping halfway through.  Preheat the oven to 400.  Bake tofu strips for 20 minutes, then flip and bake another 10 minutes. You can reserve the marinade to throw into a veggie stir-fry some time next week!

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Hearty Chipotle Chili: In a large stockpot, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil, then add 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 diced onion, and 1 diced green bell pepper.  Cook 5-7 minutes until softened.  Add 4 cans of beans (any variety…this is about 6 cups of beans), 1 cup frozen corn, 1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes, 1 15-oz. can of tomato sauce, ¼ cup water, and 1 tbsp. finely chopped chipotle in adobo, plus 2 tsp. adobo sauce.  Also add ½ tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. chili powder, ½ tsp. cumin, ¼ tsp. cinnamon, ½ tsp. red pepper flakes, and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper.*  Stir well to combine, bring mixture just to a boil, then cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Add 8 oz. sliced baby portabella mushrooms (optional, but I found some on sale for a really good price!), stir well, then cover pot and cook another 10-15 minutes, until mushrooms have cooked down.  Taste for seasoning, top with a tablespoon or two of chopped green onions, and serve with cornbread.  Makes approximately 10 cups.

The cornbread I used is the Skillet Cornbread from Veganomicon (double-corn variety).  Most vegan cornbread recipes will use similar ingredients if you don’t have Veganomicon.

*Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the spice ingredients listed in the recipe.  The beautiful thing about chili is that it is completely adaptable!  You can also omit the chipotle and/or red pepper flakes if heat is not your thing.

Day Two:
Oatmeal prepared with ½ cup water and ½ cup soy milk, 1 tbsp. peanut butter, and ½ sliced banana
Leftover Chipotle Chili with leftover Skillet Cornbread
Easy Lentil Soup with Homemade Whole Wheat Croutons

Easy Lentil Soup: In a large stockpot, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil, then add 6 cloves minced garlic and 1 diced onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add 2 diced carrots and 2 diced stalks of celery, and cook another 3-4 minutes, until softened.  Add 4 cups vegetable broth, 4 cups water, and 2 cups dry brown or green lentils, stir, then cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are soft and cooked (I find this usually takes 20-25 minutes).  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Dried thyme and cumin also taste great in this soup, if you have them.

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Homemade Whole Wheat Croutons: Take two slices of whole wheat sandwich bread (preferably sort of stale…you can leave them out during the day while at work), brush each side lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and dried oregano, and toast in a toaster or 350 degree oven until crispy and browned.  Cut into squares and use to garnish soup or salads.

Day Three:
Blueberry Breakfast Cake (1-2 slices)
Leftover Lentil Soup with leftover Skillet Cornbread
Leftover Chipotle Chili on top of a baked potato

Blueberry Breakfast Cake: This recipe is by Happy Herbivore and can be viewed by clicking here.

Easy Baked Potato with Chili: Scrub the skin of the potato (either Russet or Yukon Gold are fine), dry with paper towel, and then pierce several times with a fork.  Microwave for 3 minutes.  Test with fork.  If the fork pierces the skin easily, the potato is done.  If not, continue to microwave at 30-second intervals until done.  Serve each baked potato with ½ tbsp. Earth Balance, 1 cup of Chipotle Chili, and a tablespoon of chopped green onions.

Day Four:
Whole wheat English muffin with 1 tbsp. peanut butter and ½ banana, sliced
Baked Marinated Tofu sandwich (2 strips) on whole wheat bread (2 slices), leftover Lentil Soup
Peanut Passion soba noodles (if you don’t have soba noodles, rice noodles or spaghetti are perfect substitutes!)

peanut passion sauce

Peanut Passion Soba Noodles: I used Dreena Burton’s recipe for Peanut Passion Sauce (pictured above), which can be viewed by clicking here, and followed her instructions for noodles (in the Notes).  Top noodles with a tablespoon or two of chopped green onions, if you like.

Day Five:
Oatmeal prepared with ½ cup water and ½ cup soy milk, 1 tbsp. peanut butter, and ½ sliced banana
Leftover Peanut Passion noodles
Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie (this is how we will use up the remaining leftover Chipotle Chili!  You should have 3-4 cups left at this point.)

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Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie: Peel and rinse 4 medium-large Russet potatoes (or 6 small-medium Yukon Gold potatoes) and chop them into large pieces.  Place them in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, lower the heat slightly and allow them to gently continue boiling, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, until fork-tender.  Drain the potatoes, then add them back to the warm pot and let them rest for 1 minute to release a little moisture.  Transfer the potatoes to a bowl, and add 6 tbsp. soy milk, 4 tbsp. Earth Balance, ¼ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, then mash the potatoes using a potato masher or a fork until smooth.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Lightly spray or oil a 9 x 13 glass or casserole dish, then add all of your leftover chili and top with mashed potatoes.  Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until potatoes have a golden crust.  Remove into bowls, top with a tablespoon of chopped green onions, and enjoy.

You can also bake this in ramekins for individual portions, if you prefer:
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Day Six:
Blueberry Breakfast Cake (1-2 slices)
Leftover Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie
Pasta (2 dry cups of any variety, cooked) with meaty lentil sauce

Meaty Lentil Sauce: I made the lentil pasta sauce by following the recipe for Homestyle “Meaty” Tomato Sauce with Lentils and Walnuts from Plant Based On a Budget, but omitting the walnuts.  View the recipe by clicking here.

Day Seven:
Whole wheat English muffin with 1 tbsp. peanut butter and ½ banana, sliced
Leftover pasta with Meaty Lentil Sauce
Sautéed tofu, caramelized onion and mushroom brown rice, roasted asparagus

Caramelized onion and mushroom brown rice: Cook 1 cup brown rice according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp. Earth Balance in a large skillet.  Add 1 onion, thinly sliced, plus a generous pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until very soft and very brown.  Set onions aside and deglaze the pan with a little water (or cooking wine, if you have it), then add 1 clove minced garlic and cook until softened and fragrant.  Next, add 4 oz. sliced portabella mushrooms and cook until they soften and shrink down a little.  You may need to add splashes of liquid here and there to prevent sticking.  Once the mushrooms have cooked, add the caramelized onions back in, plus the cooked rice, and stir to combine.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Sautéed tofu: Drain and press tofu and cut block in half, reserving half of it for another time (maybe for that stir fry next week?).  Slice the remaining half into triangles, and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper.  In a non-stick skillet, add 1 tsp. of olive oil, then cook the tofu triangles for a few minutes on each side, just until browned.

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Roasted asparagus: Preheat oven to 400F.  Snap off the woody ends of the stalks, wash, and dry them.  Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place in the oven for 15 minutes, flipping or shaking them about 10 minutes in.

Ingredients and Price Breakdown
2 cups oats – $.32
2 cups soy milk – $.82
10 tbsp. natural peanut butter – $.70
5 bananas – $1.22
1 cup frozen blueberries – $1.20
6 English Muffins – $3.49
½ cup unsweetened applesauce – $.23
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract – $.34
Total breakfast price: $8.32

Lunch (non-leftover)
1 block extra-firm tofu – $1.70
6 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce – $.60
1 tsp. sesame oil – $.13
1 inch ginger, grated – $.04
2 cloves garlic – $.06
2 apples – $1.14
8 slices whole wheat bread – $2.40
Total lunch price: $6.07

4 cans of beans – $2.00
2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes – $1.50
1 can tomato paste – $.45
15 garlic cloves (1 head) – $.45
4 onions – $1.44
1 green pepper – $1.03
2 cups frozen corn – $.54
1 tbsp. chipotle in adobo – $.18
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce – $.40
2 ¼ c. + 6 tbsp. soy milk – $1.08
6 tbsp. Earth Balance – $.78
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar – $.03
2 cups cornmeal – $.10
6 potatoes – $1.08
2 carrots – $.26
2 stalks celery – $.34
3 ½ cups dried lentils – $1.40
4 cups vegetable stock/broth – $2.00
1 package soba noodles – $3.99
½ cup peanut butter – $.56
1 tbsp. sesame oil – $.39
1 inch ginger, grated – $.04
3 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce – $.30
1 bunch organic green onions – $.99
2 limes – $.67
½ block extra-firm tofu – $.85
12 oz. sliced baby portabella mushrooms (sale) – $1.89
1 bunch asparagus (sale) – $2.10
1 cup dry brown rice – $.16
2 cups dry pasta – $.52
2 slices whole wheat bread – $.30
Total dinner price: $27.86

I am not a dietician or nutritionist.  This is just the kind of stuff I like to eat and reflects my personal view of what represents a healthy balance.

The only ingredients whose cost is not factored in are things that are commonly found in all kitchens: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, basic spices, and oil.

It does not matter what day of the week you count as day one, day two, etc.

You will have leftovers!!  Leftover lentil pasta sauce, lentil soup, blueberry breakfast cake, whole wheat bread, and canned chipotles can all be frozen.  You also can (and should!) freeze the leftover ½ block of tofu.  The only things I’m not sure I would freeze are the Peanut Passion noodles and the Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie (can you freeze mashed potatoes?), so you would want to use any leftovers of those within a few days.  Not hard to do because they are so delicious!

Other Stuff
Please note that I did not actually go out and purchase all of the listed ingredients before coming up with the meal plan.  The overwhelming majority of the ingredients used are staples in my kitchen and I already had them available to me.  Please feel free to make substitutions or omissions as needed in order to fit the plan into your personal budget or food items you have on hand.  The best example of this is the soba noodles; if you don’t have those in your kitchen, but you do have spaghetti or rice noodles, you can save yourself the $3.99 by just using what you already have.

Also worth noting is that I did not always pick the cheapest options for all of the listed foods.  For example, dried beans are almost always cheaper than canned, but I happened to find canned beans on sale for $.50 each, which I thought was a good deal that would save me time.  But the point is that you could save even more money (and avoid sodium, BPA, etc.) by making the chili recipe using beans that you have cooked from dried.

Finally, you can probably also find even cheaper options for bread, English muffins, and peanut butter.  I felt okay using what I had on hand once I realized that they would fit into the budget for the meal plan.  It’s your choice and you should feel free to buy whatever products you like that fit into your budget!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

My Life Revolves Around Food

Sorry but I’m too excited to keep this to myself!

Although it’s probably apparent from the fact that I write a food blog, I really find food to be one of the most enjoyable and worthwhile parts of life.

Avocado love! Please note that when this was taken, I was 24 and it was still okay for me to do kissy face pictures.  

And tonight right after work I’m going to a vegan Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Boston Vegetarian Society at Red Lentil in Watertown and I’m so so so SO excited!!!  Check out this freakin’ menu:

Hot Spiced Cider

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with a Garnish of Fresh Mint
Cashew cream and coconut cream based cauliflower soup touched with the flavors of celery, onions, star anise, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon stick

Creole-Spiced Red Kuri Squash and Macintosh Apple Bisque
Velvet smooth bisque made with leeks, white wine and carrots, and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds

Fall Harvest Salad
Mesclun greens and romaine mix, diced and roasted butternut squash, toasted pecans, maple toasted pumpkin seeds, and pomegranate seeds, with sherry vinaigrette on the side

Roasted Beet and Poached Apple Salad with Orange Tahini Dressing
Roasted red and golden beets, pine nuts, golden raisins, parsley, Granny Smith apples, sesame seeds and shaved carrots

Round Polenta with Mixed Mushrooms and Cilantro Harissa Gremolata
Polenta, butternut squash, oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, shallots, parsley, green peas, and harissa

Herbed Baked Zucchini-and-Pepper Gratin with Cashew Ricotta Cheese
Zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, tomato, Piment d’espelette and mint

Entrees and Vegetable Sides
Braised Seitan Medallion in Mushroom Gravy
Tender seitan strips in a savory gravy of mushroom, red wine, rosemary, sage, thyme, carrot

Moroccan Pumpkin and Lentil Stew
Green lentils, pumpkin, cumin, tomato purée, spices, with a hint of jalapeño chili

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Creamy Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy

Apple Pear Crisp with Graham Cracker Crust Served Warm, with Locally Made Dairy-Free Vanilla Ice Cream

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Sauce

I die.

Please don’t be too jealous!  I will take many photos and will attempt to make them as non-horrible as possible despite the fact that it is currently 4:13 p.m. and pitch dark.

Also, I went for a run today but I don’t think that is going to even put a dent in counteracting the amount of food I am about to eat.  I’m not even mad.

Sunshine Blogger Award!


Over the weekend I was honored to receive a Sunshine Blogger Award from Catherine, the blogger behind Veg Charlotte!  I really enjoy Catherine’s friendly, approachable style and realistic take on what it means to live a vegan lifestyle.  Her Frugal Friday feature is particularly awesome.  Definitely check her out if you have a chance.

The rules for Sunshine Award are:

1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.
3. Answer the same 10 questions given.
4. Nominate up to 10 blogs for the award, a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
5. Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.

So here I go!

1. Where would you most like to travel to?
I’ve done a decent amount of traveling outside the U.S. (England, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Vietnam, Uruguay, Canada, Israel, Palestine [the West Bank], Ireland, Panama)  but there are still many places I want to visit!  So the answer to this question is that it’s a toss-up between India, Thailand, and Peru.  Oh also, Turkey and Egypt.  Yeah I can’t pick just one.

2. Do you have a sweet tooth?
Yes!! Although it has waned a little in recent months, meaning that while I still LOVE sweet treats, I no longer have the need to have one every day.  Not sure why but I’ll take it.

Oh, but no matter what time of day or night, I would never say no to one of these:
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3. What motivates you to keep you blogging?
Blogging is the creative counterpart to my professional life as a lawyer, where my writing is necessarily dry and technical.  From the cooking, photography, and writing to reading other blogs and interacting with wonderful people all over the world, motivation is easy to come by!

4. Who is your favorite comedian?
Male: Andy Samberg; female: Amy Poehler.

5. What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Horseback riding!  I spent a heavy portion of my middle school and high school years riding, training, grooming, and working with horses plus teaching lessons and working at riding summer camps.  I kept riding through college but after that I wasn’t able to keep it up because of work and financial constraints.  But it’s still the best thing I can think of to do outside.  I like running too but it doesn’t compare.

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This is me at age 15, riding my horse Penny in our county hunter pace.  Cover girls!

6. Who was your favorite teacher and why?
This is a tie between my two high school Spanish teachers, Sras. Barca and Vodhanel.  It has to be a tie because one of the great things about them was how these two petite ladies complemented each other.  Barca was dark-haired with a sassy wit while Vodhanel was fair with a soft voice and gentle manner.  They were great teachers, plus I was really good at Spanish so I did well in their classes (I think that always helps).  They were also my advisors in Spanish Honor Society and were just really good at coming up with awesome trips and fun outings for us (like going into NYC to see a play in Spanish).

7. Do you own any pets?
Stewie-bear and Marty-moose!! ❤
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8. Most embarrassing moment in your life? (That you are willing to share.)
Once in high school, I went to sit down at a table in the upper library and ended up crashing to the floor among shards of broken chair.  I think the chair must have already been broken before I sat down, but I still felt like a heiffer and everyone was laughing so all I could do was laugh along.  It sucked though and it kinda hurt too!

9. Where are you from?
I was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, moved at age 2 to Neptune City, then moved again on my 9th birthday to Fair Haven.  A Jersey shore girl 🙂

10. How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?
I got nothin.

And now, I am excited to nominate the following bloggers for the Sunshine award:

1) Becky of Veg Hot Pot

2) Ketty of Luminous Vegans

3) Sarah of Fried Dandelions

4) Becky of Glue and Glitter

5) Celeste of Honk If You’re Vegan

(By the way, I just realized that all five of the blogs I’ve nominated are ones I only discovered in the last 3 months, basically since I did Vegan MoFo.  It really is amazing how blogging can connect people.)

Thanks for reading if you’ve gotten this far!  And thanks again to Catherine for the nomination!!


I am happy to report that all three of the vegan options I brought to my work  party last night WERE SUCCESS!


I made Chipotle White Bean Dip from Plant Based on a Budget:
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Spinach Artichoke Dip with Garlic Cashew Cream from Glue and Glitter:
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And Chewy Ginger-Molasses Cookies by Chloe Coscarelli:
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Yep, that is the lonely remaining cookie from the smorgasbord.  No one ever wants to be the person to take the last one!  So he’s mine, all mine.

As I said, all three of the selections were very well-received.  Lots of folks commented on the perfect texture of the cookies and asked for the recipe.

People also seemed to really like the spinach-artichoke dip, and I got quite a few questions about it.   This was probably largely due to the fact that I put a sign on the bowl cautioning that it was nut-based, because to the naked omnivore eye, it looks just like a “normal” dairy-based spinach-artichoke dip, and I was worried that someone with a tree nut allergy would assume the dip was safe and be in for a very unpleasant surprise.  My lawyerly wheels are always turning, I tell you.

Anyway, I will probably repeat all three for Thanksgiving next week since each of them scores a 4 out of 4 on my recipe evaluation test (cheap, easy, omnivore-approved, and make-ahead).  To make it extra-special, I’m planning to serve the spinach-artichoke dip in a bread bowl with the bread pieces available for dipping.  I actually kind of wish I were eating that right now…

What are some other fail-proof dishes for bringing to omnivore gatherings?

Have a wonderful weekend!  Last one before Thanksgiving!!!

I Love Goats, and Potlucks

Hello friends!  So even though I am still basking in the awesomeness of Virtual Vegan Potluck, I figured it was time to post again so I can share a little bit about the day that H and I had at the animal sanctuary.

But first of all…seriously, how awesome was VVP?!  I lost count of the number of new-to-me blogs I discovered and incredible recipes I bookmarked.  Huge props to Annie of An Unrefined Vegan for coming up with such a fantastic idea, and for being willing to put in the immense amount of work it takes to organize it.

Anyway, as I mentioned last week, the day after the Virtual Potluck, H and I went to a real-life potluck at Sunny Meadow Sanctuary in central Massachusetts.  Before the potluck though, we spent several hours working around the farm. 

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It was a grey fall day, a little chilly but not terribly cold, with a few spots of rain.  I was bundled up to begin with, but quickly shed layers as we began working hard!   First, we cleaned out the goat barn, removing all of the soiled bedding and hay, sweeping, and replacing it with fresh shavings.  This required several trips across the farm to empty our wheelbarrows on the manure pile.

Farm Sanctuary 005 We also cleaned out the goats’ water buckets and gave them fresh hay and water.  Once the goat barn was clean, H and I took a short break to walk around and see some of the animals.  I felt so peaceful seeing them out in the pastures, just enjoying life, free from the horror, noise, and filth of a commercial “farm.”

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Afterwards, we visited the pigs and helped to clean up their pasture area.  And then, I got to play with goats!!!

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Anyone who knows me knows that I seriously love goats.  I have always thought they were such funny, mischievous, intelligent creatures, but now I think I love them even more!  The five young male goats at Sunny Meadow are some of the sweetest animals I’ve ever met.  The pictures show me hanging out with one named Alex, but all of them were equally affectionate, leaning right into you to let you scratch them behind the ears or tilting their heads up to nuzzle you.  Oh my God, I had so much fun hanging out with the goats on Sunday! 🙂

Anyway once darkness had fallen and the work was done, it was time to feast!

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My plate included a big helping of a delicious salad made with lots of fresh parsley, marinated tofu cubes from Whole Foods cold bar, an absolutely incredible quinoa and bean salad, mashed spiced sweet potatoes (from a Veganomicon recipe, I’m told), a two-bean salad (chickpeas and green beans), Tofurkey roast with wild rice stuffing and gravy, and toasted baguette slices.  I had seconds and thirds of the mashed sweet potatoes…they were incredible!

There was also a really delicious split pea soup, plus the dish that I brought, which I somehow failed to photograph (derp).  I made Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry from Veganomicon, though I had to take some serious ingredients liberties.  I’m happy to report though that it was very well received 🙂

Overall it was just a really nice day, and a great chance to meet some big-hearted people trying to do some good for the animals.

So now I have officially kicked off the season of cooking stuff to share with other people.  It’s important to me that I share really high-quality, well-prepared vegan food when serving to an omnivore crowd.

This Thursday night is my work holiday party (super-early, I know!) and because I feel confident that there will be nothing vegan to eat, I am going to make at least two appetizers and at least one (but more likely two) dessert to bring along.

The first appetizer I’m going to make is this super-simple Chipotle White Bean Dip using as a base the recipe from the Plant Based on a Budget blog, which I like to tweak by adding additional spices and lime juice.  Click here to see the original recipe.

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The other is going to be the Spinach Artichoke Dip with Garlic Cashew Cream that Glue and Glitter shared in the Virtual Vegan Potluck (click for recipe).  And for dessert, I have options, options, options!  The one that’s jumping out the most at the moment is Chloe Coscarelli’s Chewy Ginger-Molasses Cookies (click for recipe), but I’m also weighing some peanut butter and chocolate concoctions, because those always seem to go over well.

AND I have to make a decision ASAP about what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner next week, both for sharing with omnis and for my own dinner.  Same deal with Christmas dinner a few weeks later!

Finally, I just found out today that there is a Thanksgiving themed vegan potluck coming up this weekend, followed by a tour of another animal sanctuary, Maple Farm Sanctuary in Mendon, Massachusetts.  Not sure if I’m going to be able to get to that one but man does it sound fun.

Whew! It’s time to start making some lists.  🙂

Virtual Vegan Potluck: Beet ‘n’ Bella Carpaccio


Welcome, and thanks for stopping by!

I am so excited to be participating in the VVP today, and am bringing an appetizer to share.  Not just any appetizer, but a beautiful perfect-for-fall Beet ‘n’ Bella Carpaccio!

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Beets are the featured ingredient for this installment of the VVP, and since I absolutely love them I decided I’d commit to using them in my appetizer creation.  I’m so glad I did!

This appetizer (it’s sort of a salad too, I suppose) is served cold.  Enjoy the earthy flavors melded with the tanginess of the lemon juice, sweet acidity of the balsamic vinegar, fresh bitter bite of the arugula, and creamy crunch of toasted pinenuts.

Here’s how you make it:

Beet ‘n’ Bella Carpaccio – Vegan and Gluten-free
Serves 3-6 as an appetizer (you’ll want to make a lot more if you’re bringing it to a real potluck!)
Active time: 15 minutes
Inactive time: 20 inactive
Total time: 35 minutes

1 large red beet, peeled and trimmed
1 large portabello mushroom cap
4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus (optional) more for drizzling
2 tsp. tamari
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
2 tsp. lemon zest (about 2 lemons–zest before juicing!)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, chopped
1/2-1 cup baby arugula
1 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Slice the beet and mushroom cap as thinly as possible.  (I do not have a mandoline so I did this by [very carefully] cutting on the bias with a sharp knife.)

Make the marinade by combining the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, tamari, lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano, and rosemary in a small bowl.

Place beet slices in a shallow dish and mushroom slices in another shallow dish.  Divide marinade over both dishes and swirl around a little, making sure the beets and mushrooms are mostly covered.  Let marinate in the fridge for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.

While the beets and mushrooms marinate, wash and dry the arugula, then prepare your plate by adding a thin drizzle of olive oil (I used a garlic-infused variety) and then laying the arugula over it.

When the beets and mushrooms have finished marinating, remove the individual slices, shake off the marinade a little, and then lay them one by one on your serving plate, alternating beets and mushrooms.

Garnish with pine nuts, salt, and pepper.  Serve chilled.

Recipe Note: When prepared according to this recipe, the beets remain pretty crunchy.  If you would like them to be more tender, simply increase their marinating time, which will give the acids in the vinegar and lemon juice a chance to break them down more.  I’d guess you could leave them in the marinade as long as overnight.  I wouldn’t leave the mushrooms in for more than an hour, though.

1) Try subbing orange juice and zest for the lemon.
2) Try grilling the beets and mushrooms before plating.

VVP 001Enjoy!

To see what Radhika is serving over at Tickling Palates, click the icon below:


To go back and see what Ketty at Luminous Vegans has brought, click the icon below:


Or click here to start at the very beginning of the potluck!

An Apple a Day, Vegan Potlucks, and More!

Woo hoo, it’s Friday!!  Gotta love a shortened work week.  I’ve also been extremely productive this week, both in the office and out, which for me always makes time go by more quickly.

Also I have lots of fun stuff coming up!  Tomorrow is the Virtual Vegan Potluck and I am bringing an appetizer which incorporates the featured ingredient, beets!  Be sure to check in tomorrow to see what I made, and to check out all of the other incredible vegan goodness being brought by bloggers all over the world.


On Sunday, H and I are going to a real-life potluck at Sunny Meadow Sanctuary, an animal sanctuary in Central Mass.  It’s actually a “work day” and potluck, which means that we will be going over in the early afternoon to volunteer around the farm as needed for a few hours, followed by feasting.  I have been wanting to do this for SO long but something always comes up.  As for this weekend, the stars aligned: H and I are not out of town for the first time in months, and the Patriots aren’t playing on Sunday, so I’m finally going and am super-excited!!  I’ll try to get some good pictures while I’m there.  Now I just have to figure out what to bring…

I have a few other projects in the works that I’ll reveal in the next week or two.  But for now I just wanted to share a confession, which is that I’ve recently been eating an unholy amount of apples.

We may not be able to have avocados growing in our backyards (SoCal = SoJealous), but Massachusetts does manage produce apples that are absurdly delicious and plentiful all autumn long.  On the last day of our local farmer’s market, October 29, I bought around 20 lbs. of them.  My original intent was to wait until early December, then slow-cook them down into apple butter (Vanilla Rum Apple Butter, to be exact) to give to neighbors and co-workers as holiday gifts.  But…now I’m not sure that’s going to happen, because I’ve already eaten like half of them.

Mostly at breakfast time as Apple Butterballs (as I call them):
Apples 001

This involves slicing open an apple, scooping out the seeds, and then filling the remaining little well with raw almond butter (or any other kind of nut/seed butter).  Then you sprinkle it with cinnamon, put the apple back together, and wrap it in tin foil to bring to work for breakfast.

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Sometimes when you unwrap the apple, you’ll find that the almond butter got a little gooey and melted out the end, but I don’t mind this.  I just scoop it off the tin foil and put it back on the apple when eating it. 🙂

I find the apple butterballs very filling, but for something even heartier, I go for an Apple Breakfast Sandwich:
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You’ve got a toasted whole wheat English muffin, spread with raw almond butter and topped with hemp seeds and apple slices.

Sprinkle on cinnamon (always cinnamon. Always.):
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And add a drizzle of agave, if you dare:
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Try to tell me there’s something wrong with this and I’ll call you a liar!  At least I know I’m getting my apple a day. 🙂

Pile on the Miles Update: I hit my goal of 10 miles this week, but at this point I’m below where I should be at the halfway mark of the month (goal is 43 miles during this 30-day month and I’m at 17.25 as of the 15th), so I’ll probably try to get another 4-5 miles in tomorrow.  Yay for having a weekend where I’m not traveling and can stay home and actually do stuff I want to do!!!

Also, by some miracle, my running fitness has returned relatively quickly.  I did a really fun four-miler last night and it felt great the entire time.  That’s not to say I didn’t have some precarious moments.  As with many small New England towns founded in the 17th century, mine has a lot of trees.  Old trees.  With big roots that grow underneath and ripple the sidewalks.  Being accustomed to running and training in the spring/summer (read: with daylight), I didn’t realize how dark and poorly-lit parts of my town actually are, and how difficult that makes it to avoid the tree roots!  I might have to start wearing one of those silly-looking head lanterns, Ragnar-style:
(Just now realizing I wore that exact white longsleeve and reflective vest combo last night.  The headlamp would just totally complete the look.)

What should I bring to the Sunny Meadow potluck on Sunday? Any fun plans for the weekend?? Let me know in the comments!

D.C. Stands for “Delicious Chow”

Well, I am back to work after a wonderful long Veteran’s Day weekend!

Our trip to our nation’s capital was not what I’d call “relaxing,” as each of the two days were jam-packed with sightseeing and spending time with close friends and of course my sister, M.  While we didn’t get to do all the veg-ploring I had hoped to do, there were some definite highlights.

Exhibit 1:
DC Eats 003

DC Eats 005YES.

Now, there is no way that sofritas salad was going to photograph nicely.  But dear LORD was it delicious, and totally hit the spot at the end of the day after our late evening flight.  Dear Chipotle, please bring these up north.  Kthx.

On our first full day, I went exploring with H&M (hah).  We went to the Capitol first, where we were treated to a little VIP trip to the parliamentarian’s office.  The office used to belong to the Speaker and it was pretty humbling to think of all of the important people that have passed through it.

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After that it was across the street to the Supreme Court.  H and I are both attorneys so obviously this is very cool to us!
DC 003

At this point we were all pretty hungry and I was also suffering a bit of a caffeine-withdrawal headache (I don’t always get these when I don’t have coffee but when I do it’s awful), so we originally weren’t going to go inside the Court.  But that seemed dumb since we were right there so we did go in.  And we were rewarded with the most amazing behind-the-scenes tour from a super-sweet employee who saw the three of us browsing exhibits and offered to show us the library and other parts of the building (like the justices’ dining room, gym and basketball court!) that are not open to the public.  It was such an incredibly nice thing for her to do, and something we will always remember.

Anyway by the time we left there we were famished (and my head was pounding), so we decided to head over to nearby Union Station to get coffee and see what dining options were there.  I was a little disappointed because I had wanted to try out a real DC veg place, but figured I could get by with Pret a Manger or something similar.  Little did I know, Union Station has like 985908 restaurants.  Seriously, it was overwhelming!  After walking around for several minutes trying to decide, I finally stumbled upon something amazing in the downstairs food court: Sunrise Caribbean Cafe, a food stand with an entire vegan menu!!!

DC Eats 008
I ordered the BBQ “steak” (made of seitan), vegan mac and cheese, and collard greens (sorry for the crappy train station food court lighting).

I honestly can’t even describe how delicious this was.  While it wasn’t the best vegan Caribbean steak I’ve had (the bar for that has been set impossibly high by the pepper steak from Belmont Vegetarian Restaurant in Worcester, MA), the mac and cheese was utterly delightful.  It had Jamaican curry powder and chopped veggies mixed in, and was super-creamy and tasted SO GOOD mixed with some of the sauce from the steak.

As if I weren’t already in love with this place, while I placing my order one of the employees came out from the kitchen and handed me this, saying it was a free sample:
DC Eats 007

On their menu it is called a “double.”  It was basically a chickpea curry wrapped up in soft fried dough, aka Heaven.  H loved it so much that he said he wished he had just gone and ordered two of these for his lunch instead of the slices of pepperoni pizza he had settled on.  There are few things that make me happier than vegan food that tastes better than any omni offering!  I would highly, highly recommend Sunrise if you’re looking for something delicious and affordable after touring the Capitol area.

Even though we were startlingly full after our Union Station lunch, there was no way I was missing Sticky Fingers on this trip so we took the Metro over to Columbia Heights and were rewarded with this beacon of beauty:
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Between the three of us we ended up with:
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The classic peanut butter and chocolate cupcake

DC Eats 011Their seasonal Sweet Potato Maple Cupcake

DC Eats 012And their Chocolate Stout Cupcake, which looked like this when cut open:

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Yes, that was a chocolate covered cloud of Ricemellow on top.

I think I will let the pictures speak for themselves on this one.  You probably already know that Sticky Fingers is a vegan pilgrimage you must take if you are in the DC area.

I think that pretty much sums up the highlights of the weekend’s food adventures.  The rest of the time was spent catching up with our friends and exploring outside of the city (including going for a run in NoVa and taking a ride out to beautiful Annapolis!).  Some Neil Diamond was sung, some beers were consumed, lots of laughter ensued…

DC 009

And when I got home I got to spend my free Monday with this:
DC 010

I’d say it was a good weekend 🙂

What other places in the DC area are must-visits for vegans? If you’ve got one, leave it in the comments!

Daiya Giveaway Winner and Weekend Update

Not this Weekend Update, unfortunately:

First things first: the winner of the Daiya free product voucher is Donna!  Donna said:

I think I’m the last vegan on earth who hasn’t had Daiya. I’d like to try the mozz-style and make a pizza with actual “cheese!”

Congratulations, girl!  I hope your first experience with Daiya is a great one!

Thank you SO much to everyone who commented.  You guys really helped my self-esteem and I’m now super-excited about giveaways and hope to host another one really soon!  Actually I’ve already thought up an idea so it won’t be too long in any case…

Anyways, I know it’s only Thursday but I’m getting really excited for the weekend!  H and I are travelling to DC to visit my beautiful little sister M, who has promised to take me  on a tour of her favorite vegan and veg-friendly establishments.

M and me the last time I visited DC

Sticky Fingers will obviously be involved.sticky fingers

And this is the Cherry Blossom cupcake I got on my last visit and HOLY HELL I still dream about this thing.  The crappy bar lighting from Millie & Al’s does it no justice, none.

While M is not vegan, she is lactose intolerant and so obviously avoids many non-vegan foods.  Apart from this, though, she has always been extremely open to eating vegan meals.  She particularly loves seitan and soy chorizo (a version of which I hear DC-area Chipotles are now serving btw!).


I think we’ll have a good time, and I hope to take many photos!  Most of them will probably end up on Instagram (@acookinthemaking) but if there’s anything particularly awesome perhaps I’ll share it in a recap post next week.

Pile on the Miles update:
Week one went…okay.  So far I’ve done 6.3 of my 10 goal miles for the week, but the first 3.2 (on the treadmill because it was COLD and I am weak) did not come easily.  A little bit of walking and more than a little pain were involved.  All the more reason to stick with it though, right? And then last night I had this incredible outdoor run where I felt awesome and didn’t walk at all and kept up a good (for me) pace the entire time!  So who knows.  I’m hoping that by week four I’ll be back to being able to run an easy 5K without too many after-effects.

Also, I’m starting to remember why I never lose any weight when running or training for a race.  It’s not even one of those things where I run a measly 3 miles and then think I can eat whatever I want because I “earned” it.  The real problem is that the day after a run, I don’t feel like doing anything, or I convince myself I “need to rest,” so cross-training always seems to go right out the window.  The net effect is that I actually get less total exercise per week, even though my cardio minutes increase.

This is starting to annoy me and I’m working really hard at developing the mental focus to run 3 days a week and do strength training on 2 other days.    It really shouldn’t be that hard! I know that I am physically capable of doing this and that I’m not going to die or injure myself.  But somehow this irrational fear creeps in and I find an excuse.

This is something I just have to work on.  One of those personal barriers that you need to push past in order to grow as a person.  We all have them!  Identifying it is the first step, I think.

What are your personal barriers?  What do you do to try to break through them?

Also, any fun weekend plans?

Let me know in the comments!  I’ll be checking in from the road.