Caesar Salad To Die For…And It’s Vegan!


Oh. My. Goodness.

I’ve never actually made Caesar Salad before although I love it, and I used to order it all the time before going vegan.  The creamy dressing, the croutons, the cheese, and I didn’t even mind a few hidden anchovies.  Frankly, the idea of making Caesar Salad at home always seemed too daunting.  But when Angela at “Oh She Glows” shared her recipe here I knew I had to give it a try.

Well, the results were amazing!  There are three parts to this recipe, not including the greens (romaine and a bit of kale).  These include:

Roasted chickpeas:


Well these babies were a revelation!  Canned chickpeas roasted with a touch of olive oil, salt and garlic powder.  After about 35 minutes they become crunchy–a perfect substitute for croutons.  Come to think of it, there’s nothing particularly non-vegan about croutons but these were so much better and of course, better for you!  They reminded me of corn nuts.  So delicious.  I’m looking forward to roasting some just for snacking.  After I had my first taste I was surprised I was able to leave some for the salad!

Next up is the vegan dressing:


This blended dressing begins with a raw cashew cream. The other ingredients include garlic, lemon juice, dijon mustard, capers, vegan worcestershire sauce and spices.  The combination is so like a traditional Caesar dressing, I really couldn’t believe there were no eggs.  But nope, not a one.   Fabulous.

The last ingredient is the parmesan cheese substitute:


This is a ground-up mix of raw cashews and sesame seeds (oops, just realized I used sunflower seeds..worked anyway!) , hulled hemp seeds (had to track those down in Whole Foods) and nutritional yeast (that cheesy flavor).  I guess the sesame (not sunflower)  seeds would have created a different texture , but this mix still provided the cheesy flavor I expect in a good Caesar salad.

This salad went beautifully with our mushroom buckwheat soup and will be a regular in our rotation.  Here’s a look at the salad dished up and ready to be devoured:


I actually halved the recipe, and this was plenty for me and David for dinner, but I think I went a little light on the dressing.  Next time I plan to load it up.  I figure that given these healthy ingredients, you really can’t have too much of a good thing.

Another reason why I love being vegan 🙂

How We’ll Be Eating Our Sweet Potatoes This Year


In soup! So bright and seasonal. So delicious.

I’ve been looking for a recipe for a sweet potato soup to serve at Thanksgiving.  My original plan was to trot out my mushroom barley soup which is an absolute no-fail, but it’s just so brown.  My Thanksgiving menu was needing some vivid color to round out the other loaves, casseroles and green vegetables.  And the old sweet potato and marshmallow dish is just not for me.

Since going vegan I’ve had to acknowledge that I just don’t care much for roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash.   David makes a sweet and spicy butternut squash soup that the family loves.  I’m not a fan of that either, and I finally figured out that I prefer a more savory soup.  I recently tried both squash soup and sweet potato soup at our favorite vegan restaurant here in Tucson and they were both delicious.  So I set out to find a similar recipe.

Well tis the season for orange soups so there was no shortage of possible recipes.  The recipe I decided to go with is here.  The soup is supposed to be served with some wild rice spooned on top, but since this was a trial run I sprinkled some toasted pine nuts and cinnamon on top instead.

This recipe is crazy easy to prepare– I used one pot and a blender.  For two servings, the ingredients include one baked sweet potato, half an onion, garlic, vegetable broth, unsweetened almond milk,  curry powder (mine has a kick) and garam masala.  While I’m used to sautéing my onions and garlic before making just about anything I was surprised to learn that I could create a similar effect by simmering them in the vegetable broth.  This means that there’s not a drop of oil in the dish.  While I don’t worry much about oil when I cook I know that some folks prefer to leave it out.  This approach worked beautifully and once pureed, the onions still added their signature sweet flavor.  Good to know.  A less wonderful part of the recipe is that it doesn’t include any salt, perhaps also for those on a more restricted diet.  Oh, I think soup really needs salt!  I added some sea salt a bit at a time to bring out the other flavors.  It seemed like a pretty important addition.

This creamy and spicy soup is a winner.  It’s definitely “savory” but the natural sweetness is still there.  I think it will make a beautiful addition to our meal, and I can prepare it on Wednesday.  Score and score.

Anne, here it is, as promised 🙂

Feeding the “Hungry Man”

Or teen.  Or athlete.  Or…whomever!


I will let you gaze on this overflowing plate of vegan deliciousness for just a moment.

And now I turn your attention to this:


Oh dear. Oh no.  It’s the Swanson “Hungry Man” frozen dinner!

I was raised at a time when frozen dinners and other convenience foods were just coming into vogue, and while I never had a Swanson dinner (Hungry Man or any other kind) I’ve eaten my share of frozen pizza and even a Hot Pocket or two.  And I remember the advertising for the Hungry Man dinner–a big portion for the “hungry man” in your life.  While this makes me chuckle (gag?) now, I’ve spoken to enough women about veganism lately to know that there is a perception that feeding ourselves might be one thing (well, if it was just “me” I’d do it) but feeding hungry husbands or teens or children or whomever can feel more difficult.  Well I get that.

Before I started cooking vegan food, I envisioned a vegan diet being pretty much raw or steamed vegetables with maybe some rice or beans thrown in.  There’s nothing wrong with any of that, it just wasn’t what I pictured myself eating. And I have plenty of “hungry men” in my life. David is a big guy and we have four young adult sons who can pack it away.  I know that what satisfies my appetite (I’m 5’4″ and of average weight) might not be enough for them.  So I understand this concern.  Nutritionally I know that it’s possible to get all the nutrients we need from a plant-based diet and there are books that talk about that (Vegan for Life, by Jack Norris, RD and Virginia Messina, MPH, RD is one good example), but I’m talking about creating meals that are nutritionally sound, filling and satisfying.

The photo up top was David’s dinner last night.  Mine was the same without the potato.  Continuing my love affair with the vegan “loaf” I prepared an apple, sage and fennel loaf (recipe here) that was full of lentils, vegetables, apple and oats.  Here’s a look at our loaf  just out of the oven:DSCN2147


And here’s a look at all the goodies inside:


In order to make the meal a bit more hearty for David I made a simple oven-baked sweet potato.  Lots of nutrients and very filling.  And the salad full of dark leafy greens is a dinner staple for us.  It was all delicious, and only I was grazing in the kitchen later in the evening (I should’ve had more of that potato!).

This is just one example of a “hungry man” style meal but others abound.  In truth, what makes a great vegan family meal is no different than what makes a great family meal in general—taste, variety and enough for seconds :).

What Price Tradition?

David and I are hosting Thanksgiving for the third year in a row, and three of our five children and our grandson will be there.  As new vegans, we had a few discussions about how we wanted to handle the meal.  We decided that wanted to be true to our convictions as ethical vegans and have a vegan Thanksgiving.  And I admit that I had some trepidation about sharing the news with my son, Sam, who I thought might feel disappointed to not have his favorite “traditional” foods (cheesy au gratin potatoes for example) at the meal.

Through a text message (giving me the space to deal with my and his reactions) I shared the news.  He responded predictably–“what no cheesy potatoes?!” although he did add “lol”.  After a bit of back and forth chatting peppered with “lol’s” (mine and his) I assured him that he would be served a delicious meal and be healthier for it.  He agreed to keep an open mind as long as I didn’t tell him the specifics about exactly what he was eating.  Well, okay, I can live with that.  I am incredibly excited to see the kids and share the best my vegan culinary skills have to offer.  It’s going to be a great time.

And that brings me to a feature article I read in the Huffington Post this morning entitled, “I’ll Take Turkey Over Tofu, Thank you” and you can read it for yourself here.  The premise of the article (I think) is that tradition matters–and tradition (for this family) seems to be eating the turkey, the stuffing made with gobs of butter, and the pecan pie a la mode.  And the author emphatically (defiantly?) states that she and her family “will enjoy every bite”.  WOW.  Now I know that most people this Thanksgiving will be eating some version of the aforementioned meal (and enjoying it) but I couldn’t help but wonder about her defensive tone.  Perhaps she doth protest too much??

The author states that she is happy to eat vegan or gluten-free concoctions but others shouldn’t judge her for wanting to keep her traditions.  I agree that no one likes to be judged, and vegans, like people passionate about any cause, can ruffle plenty of feathers.  But this is not simply a matter of tit for tat or about our cooking skills or palate.  It is a matter of conscience.  I doubt I’m exaggerating when I say that millions of turkeys will be inhumanely fattened up and slaughtered so that American families can keep up this tradition.  I can work my way down the Thanksgiving menu but I won’t bother.  It’s all so very sad that as a country this is where we are at.  On some level, I wonder if the author of this article, who is making her assertions with some pretty intense energy doesn’t deep-down have her own concerns about the animals, the environment, her health and the health of her family.   I think it’s hard to live in our culture without there being some uneasiness about our values and how we live.

Regarding traditions, I do understand that family rituals can keep us feeling connected to one another, and this author alluded to an”empty chair” at her table.  I could feel the sadness in her words. The rituals around holidays (and food) are some of the most powerful we experience in our families and culture.  And one way we connect one generation to another is through rituals like these.  But even so, I believe that some traditions and rituals are worth rethinking even if the transitions feel uncomfortable.  As we all know, at one time, “being true to one’s heritage” meant owning slaves.

On a slightly lighter note (but still on the subject of tradition and ritual) I barely got my own mini-ritual started when I had to change it.  Remember this?


That wool yarn was not animal-friendly and the macaron is full of butter.  Here is my updated spread:


This is acrylic yarn from my stash that I am using to crochet a “snuggle blanket” for an animal shelter.  I got wind of this idea from an internet pal (thanks Barb!) who was wondering what to do with her (non-animal friendly) merino wool and she was considering making blankets for animal shelters.  I like the idea of making some mini reparations in this way as well.  The wool from the sweater above (if it’s washable) will probably be slated for shelter blankets as well.  If you want to know more about this wonderful effort you can check it out here.

As for the cookie:


This delectable oat jam thumbprint cookie came with me from home.  I made a batch yesterday and you can find the recipe here.

While I made some changes to my mini-ritual, I still chatted with other folks at Whole Foods and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.  And here’s the thing–traditional foods are nice but they are nice because of the meaning we assign to them.  Turkey on Thanksgiving means connection and love and family.  While we can swap out one food for another, the people sitting around our tables are and will always be the main event.

New traditions await.

Get Out Those Soup Bowls!

When I moved to Arizona from the east coast over twelve years ago many people asked me if I missed the “seasons”.  Back then my defensive self might have said, “you mean the frigid, icy endless winter?  Or the sticky humid summer?”  But the truth is I don’t miss the seasons because we actually do have seasons although they are different than east coast seasons.  And right now we are entering our version of “fall/winter”.  That means that it’s cool in the early morning (42 degrees right now) and likely to be sunny and in the low seventies later on.  Perfect for late morning hikes, jeans and sweaters and this for dinner:


This mushroom buckwheat soup was actually dinner on Friday, Sunday and Monday and I wouldn’t mind having it again tonight but we finally finished it.  This delicious variation of mushroom barley soup is gluten-free which is why I decided to give it a try.  The recipe is here.  This was the first time I made a dish with these:


In fact I’m pretty sure that the last time I had buckwheat or the more familiar “kasha” it was in frozen Manischewitz kasha varnishkes (kasha and bow tie pasta).  But as soon as I added the groats to the bubbling mushroom broth and sautéed veggies the strong smell of kasha permeated the house.  I like that smell, but if it’s not your bag (and you’re not gluten-free) you can make the traditional version with barley.

This soup has a great layering of flavors and some unexpected ingredients like the juice of a lemon and fennel seeds.  For our soup I used a large onion instead of leeks.  I also recommend using salt liberally and adding lots of freshly ground black pepper. Like with many soups, the flavor and texture of this soup got even better as we worked our way through the pot over the four days.  I’m sure it would also freeze really well (Manischewitz has been doing it for years!)

So I’m now officially on the hunt for more hearty vegan soup recipes, and I have no time to lose because here in the desert winter doesn’t last very long.

Oh, and by the way, I do kind of miss that bit about the leaves changing 🙂

The Big Buddha


“But it’s not even leatha!!!”

I couldn’t help but think of Joan Cusack’s funny, funny line from the movie “Working Girl” when I was out shopping for a “vegan” purse.  And I also couldn’t help but internally respond, “No it’s betta than leatha!”  I’m referring, of course to the Big Buddha, my new, vegan purse that I found at DSW.  I love the tag in the fun patterned (polyester) lining but here’s what the bag actually looks like:


Very cute!

There’s not a ton of great shopping here in Tucson and no retailers advertise vegan shoes or bags, so I figured it was a good idea to check out DSW.  I had to laugh as I “sniffed my way” through the handbags.  For the first time I was trying to figure out which bags didn’t smell like leather!!  I was surprised to find they had a great selection, and some bags actually had “vegan-friendly” tags.  My smell test told me that this bag had no leather although it wasn’t specifically marked that way.  So I trotted out my phone and looked up “Big Buddha” and discovered that it is a company (acquired by Steve Madden in 2010) that has a line of animal-friendly, affordable bags.  You can read more about them here.

Some time after my shopping trip, David and I were talking about how it feels to pay money to a retail establishment that sells rather than produces animal products.  Admittedly my visit to DSW was challenging (even with the Big Buddha score) because I couldn’t look at those rows and rows of  leather shoes without thinking about the animals.  I feel this way pretty much all the time when I’m out shopping.  The supermarket, the mall. It can feel very overwhelming and sad.  It’s so much easier to avoid purchasing an item than to avoid an entire retail establishment because it hasn’t banned that item.  In fact, unless you are fully self-sustaining, it’s pretty much impossible.

So what to do?  For me the answer is to keep on writing, cooking, reading, talking and modeling a different way of living in our society.  If this post, for example, encourages someone to buy an animal-friendly  purse and this leads to yet another person buying an animal-friendly purse….well, you get the idea.  Given the enormity of the problem it can be hard to envision meaningful change ever happening, but in the short time I’ve been vegan I’ve had many engaging (and I believe impactful) interactions with others who want to know more about veganism and are considering making more conscious dietary and lifestyle choices.

While I’m not interested in changing closed minds, I am very interested in educating people who want to know more.  And to illustrate that “it’s never too late”, my 81 year old father-in-law, after visiting us for a few days and reading a book we recommended (The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell), let us know today that he decided to go vegan. He believes that this change will improve his health and quality of life in the years ahead.  I agree and am excited for him.

As much as I’d like to see sweeping change, this is how it happens–one person at a time. I’m glad to be a part of it in any way I can.






Vegan Quickies: When You Need A…

…cheap meal for a crowd.

Try this three bean and tempeh chili:


David is a chili lover and he was not disappointed with this recipe served over brown rice.  This one is all about cracking open the cans (pinto, kidney, and black beans, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, mild green chilis) and popping open a bottle of your favorite vegan dark beer (we used a local variety).   Aside from sautéing up some onions and garlic the rest is about dumping in the ingredients and letting it all simmer.  We made it a day in advance so that the tempeh (which is crumbled in directly from the package) had more time to absorb the flavors of the chili.  We calculated that the entire meal could not have cost more than fifteen dollars and it’s good for at least six healthy servings.

… side dish to bring to a pot luck:

Try this tangy cole slaw:


I love most kinds of cole slaw and I was surprised and delighted with this vegan variety  (recipe here).  The dressing on the the slaw is made from tahini and dijon mustard and the addition of lots of sliced pepperoncinis give it a unique and delicious flavor.  I bought the cabbage in a bag and julienned the carrots myself.  A sprinkling of black sesame seeds adds a professional touch.  Easy, yummy and portable.

a seasonal sweet:

Try these chewy ginger molasses cookies:


I baked these to use as an ingredient in a pumpkin chia pudding parfait (very ambitious!).  I didn’t love the pumpkin chia part but I am thrilled with these beautiful cookies (recipe here).  Their texture is chewy and soft and with the ginger and molasses flavors you don’t miss the butter.  The sprinkling of raw sugar on top makes them pretty enough for company.  With a cup of tea it’s all the treat I need.

As much as I love spending time digging into complicated recipes, these flavorful, inexpensive and convenient dishes are becoming an important part of our vegan repertoire.  Hope you enjoy them!

Not Just About The Food

Being a vegan is about how I want to show up in the world.  It’s about pulling my money and participation from the unnecessary torture of animals and raping of the planet.  It’s about taking responsibility for my physical, emotional and spiritual health.  An obvious first step in this transition has been to adopt a vegan diet which I’ve shared for the past few months in this blog.  What I may not have shared is that as I have changed my diet I have begun to experience a feeling a peace that I believe is about making life choices that are more in line with my values.

But there is still more work to do and more to think about.  What about animal testing in personal care products and cosmetics?  The torture of rabbits in  the cosmetics industry is well-documented.  How about leather products?  Is eating the meat of cows different from wearing their hides? (NO). That pile of wool yarn I bought to knit a sweater is weighing me down.  The sheep in Australia (where most wool comes from) are wholly unprotected and routinely abused and maimed.  Goose down in my comforter and jacket makes me uncomfortable. The feathers of the poor animals that are fattened up for their liver are mercilessly plucked. Of course, the fur industry is so atrocious that I won’t even go there, but I don’t have any fur, thank god.

My commitment is to phase all of these products out of my life, and I am currently researching ways to do that.  What I am learning is that it is absolutely possible to find vegan cosmetics and personal care products.  There are manufacturers of vegan shoes.  I can knit with cotton, linen, bamboo and acrylic.  As I learn I will share, and that brings me to this:


LUSH cosmetics is a retail and online manufacturer of  personal care products.  If you live in an urban or suburban environment there is probably a retail store near you.  I happened on our local LUSH store when we were waiting for the Apple store to open the other day.  I have probably walked by this store a dozen times but never went inside.  The store’s exterior signage let me know what they were about as they are involved in active campaigns to eliminate animal testing.  You can read about their extraordinary efforts here.

I bought some moisturizers and brought home some shampoo and conditioner to sample.  Because these products are minimally processed and are plant-based they look a bit different from the products I’m used to. Here’s what I got:


The Skin Drink is a daily facial moisturizer made from sesame oil (I was tempted to take a taste!).  The bar is actually an overnight moisturizer.  You warm it up in your hands, and as it “melts”  it becomes more oily and easier to apply to the face.  Many LUSH products exist in bar form in order to reduce  packaging.  I think it’s brilliant.  The shampoo sample I brought home (aptly named “curly wurly”) is a coconut based moisture-rich concoction;  the conditioner has a strong smell of orange blossom and is very creamy.

OK, so do these products work?  Well, I’ve only just started so the honest answer is “I don’t know yet”.  My first impression of the moisturizers is that they feel wonderful on my skin but I’m not sure they can fully combat the dryness of my fifty-something Arizona sun-drenched skin.  I am trying to be more cognizant of drinking more water because I know how important that is for hydrating the skin.  I will continue with this regimen for a while before I make a final assessment.  I may need to try a more intense LUSH formulation or look into different animal friendly manufacturers.

I can say though that my hair is already loving the shampoo and conditioner although the orange blossoms may be a bit too intense.  I’m trying to get used to it.  If I can’t I will definitely see what else LUSH has to offer.  I also plan to try out some of their cosmetics.

If you are interested in knowing whether the cosmetics and/or personal products you use are made by companies that engage in animal testing (and that’s most of them folks!) you can visit the PETA website here.  I have already jettisoned many of my favorites–Great Lash Mascara, Bobbi Brown everything and Natura Bisse skin care products. Little by little I will replace them with products that I can feel good about using.  On a happy note, my signature scent, Liz Claiborne Realities is animal-friendly.  So you never know until you check it out.

Years ago my dear friend, Fernando  said about fur-wearers, “you have to wonder about someone who wants to drape themselves in dead animal”.   The turn of phrase made me laugh at the time and I fully agreed with his sentiment.  But back then I didn’t feel compelled to wonder about myself. I felt somehow superior to those fur-wearers even as I was eating my burgers, using products tested on animals and shopping around for new boots.  Yuck.  The truth is this is no laughing matter.  I can and will do better.



Lovely Lentils

The other night I cooked lentils for the very first time.   Lentils and other legumes are a vegan staple because they are versatile, easy to cook (no soaking like beans), tasty (well I just found that out) and nutritionally packed.   I have only eaten lentils a handful of times in a dal makhani dish at our favorite Indian place.   In my household growing up I never laid eyes on a bean or legume.  Salads and cooked green vegetables were routinely part of family dinners but never beans or lentils.  And in my adult life I wasn’t drawn to try them although I’m not sure why.  A visual thing I think.

So with plans to make a Vegan Lentil Curry (recipe here)  I went over to Whole Foods to buy some lentils.  The recipe didn’t specify what kind of lentils to buy so I decided on some French green ones.  I think I remember Ina Garten serving those up to Jeffrey at some point.  If they’re good enough for the Barefoot Contessa they’re good enough for me.

This recipe is very simple to make.  The cooked and drained lentils are added to an aromatic sauce full of spices including ginger, garam masala and curry powder.  Tomato sauce ( I used a jar of organic pureed San Marzano tomatoes) and coconut milk create a creamy texture.  Here’s a look at the sauce simmering away:


Since I’m a lentil newbie, I don’t know how easy it is to achieve a cooked-through texture without having the lentils get mushy but these held up beautifully and I was pleased with the texture overall.  We served them over brown rice:


This dish was absolutely delicious with complex flavors and just enough heat from the curry powder.  Wow, lentils are filling!  I tend to be more generous with serving size for my vegan dishes because I want to be sure to get enough calories (a good problem to have) but this hefty serving was way too much.  More leftovers for tonight’s dinner.

So I am officially a lentil convert.  My world just keeps getting bigger.  I like it.


One Meal- Six Tastes


I was recently introduced to the concept of Ayurveda nutrition in Victoria Moran’s book “Main Street Vegan”.  Ayurveda is an ancient tradition of holistic health that incorporates all aspects of lifestyle.  According to this tradition our tastebuds provide us with a road map of our nutritional needs.  These “six tastes” include  sweet, salty, bitter, astringent, sour and pungent.  When these tastes are all incorporated into a meal we are naturally meeting our nutritional needs, and our bodies will feel satisfied.  For a very basic overview of Ayurveda  you can read more here.

As I ate last night’s dinner, spaghetti squash with chickpeas and kale, I was reminded of the principles of Ayurveda nutrition because I found this dish surprisingly satisfying and filling although there were no grains to be found.  In fact, even as I was preparing this I suspected that I wouldn’t like it much and it wouldn’t be “enough”.  I was wrong on both counts.

This was my first experience cooking and eating spaghetti squash and I couldn’t imagine that it would “really” be like spaghetti.  Wrong again!  A wonderful aspect of this recipe is that the ingredients are all very light so the squash retains its subtle crunch.  And yes, you can twirl it around on your fork! The eclectic-sounding ingredient list includes, shallots, garlic, red chili flakes, fresh rosemary, lemon juice, kale, chickpeas, capers and toasted pine nuts.  Except for the “sweet” taste, all six tastes are included in the dish.  The amazing layering of flavors elevated this to “craveable” status, and David and I oohed and aahed as we devoured almost all of it.  And while we munched on apple slices later in the evening (the sweet taste) neither of us felt hungry.   I am intrigued, and I definitely plan to learn more about Ayurveda nutrition.

This recipe is from the Love and Lemons blog and you can find it here.  If you have an hour to roast your squash, the rest comes together very quickly.  We made the vegan version and omitted the parmesan cheese. We didn’t miss it.  We also used capers instead of the sun-dried tomatoes because neither of us likes them.

Try this recipe.  Your tastebuds and your body will thank you.