My Neglected Blog and Recipe of the Week

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These are super simple and chewy chocolate chip cookies, but I’ll get to that in a minute…

Oh my goodness, where have the weeks gone?  It’s been about three weeks since I last posted and my “Recipe of the Week” should probably be renamed “Recipe of the Month”!  But I’m not quite ready to give up on weekly recipe postings just yet.

I have some good reasons and some not so good reasons for neglecting this blog lately (no judgment, just my own assessment).  First, I spent time in New York City attending Victoria Moran’s wonderful Main Street Vegan Academy, and now I’m a vegan lifestyle coach and educator!  Fifteen dedicated vegans from all over the country came together to learn, share and explore.  We heard from so many brilliant and committed professionals including Dr. Robert Ostfeld, Sherry Colb, JL Fields, Fran Costigan and others.  We also had time to enjoy the varied and wonderful vegan restaurants in New York, from vegan soul food at Seasoned Vegan to upscale eating at Candle Cafe West and Blossom to gazillions of options at Caravan of Dreams.

But easily the most wonderful part of the MSVA experience was sharing it with people with whom I feel a deep resonance.  I heard from many of my new friends that they sometimes feel isolated and sad.  I have certainly experienced some of that myself although both my husband and closest friend are vegan. Even before attending the academy I had begun actively seeking out like-minded friends here in Tucson and little by little I have been trying to build a community for myself. But I’m still aware of a need to scale it back or filter some of my thoughts and feelings about the animals.  At MSVA there was none of that.  While hanging with these people I could be fully open and honest.  I felt validated and understood and there is nothing better than that.  And being part of the MSVA alumni means I now have contacts and friends (I consider all MSVA grads to be friends) all over the country, and I will not hesitate to ask for their support or offer mine to them.

Another reason I’ve been neglecting my blog is because I decided, after a decade of saying “no, never”, to finally get on Facebook.  When Facebook first got going my daughter was in high school and heading off to college.  At that time getting on Facebook was a way to follow your kids to college and continue all manner of lurking.  I didn’t want any part of that.  And bearing witness to my sons’ adolescent shenanigans on Facebook didn’t seem like anything I wanted to do either.  But as Facebook morphed from the domain of kids and helicopter parents to the preeminent personal and business social network platform I knew I had to get connected.  And I’ve been enjoying my time there-too much time there actually, which is why my little blog has suffered.  It’s much easier to post pictures and share stuff than gather my thoughts and write something meaningful.  It didn’t take long for me to understand the allure of peeking into other people’s lives and letting them peek into mine.  And I did my share of “where are they now” searches.  But I think I’ve exhausted all that now, and instead I have another way of staying in touch with the people who matter to me.  And in terms of going forward with my vegan coaching, staying connected on social media is a must.  Evolution, evolution.

So on to recipes…I was going to share a recipe for a wonderful mushroom quinoa enchilada dish (you can see it on Facebook :)) but I don’t have permission yet from the author to reprint it.  If I get permission I’ll share it next week.  Regarding the cookies pictured above, I searched through lots of vegan chocolate chip cookie recipes for one that was not only delicious but super easy to make–one bowl, some elbow grease and a cookie sheet.   This recipe fit the bill and you can link to it here.  This uses coconut oil and a bit of almond milk but otherwise looks like the old Nestle Tollhouse version.  This batch came out great but I would probably use larger chips and add some nuts next time.

If you’ve got kids (or you’re still a kid!) and you need a quick and easy chocolate chip cookie recipe for all those school bake sales, this one should do the job.

Enjoy every sweet bite.

And don’t forget to “friend” me on Facebook (Lisa Slovin)

Recipe of the Week

DSCN2474 Italian Apple Cake!

We’ve been vegan for several months now, and little by little we replaced old favorite dishes with new favorite dishes. We’ve figured out how to throw quickie meals together, eat one dish for three days and even entertain a bit.  It’s really been quite a tasty adventure.

While I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for cooking great vegan food, I have settled into a bit of a comfortable cooking routine.  This is a very good thing.  I love that being vegan has become second nature–my pantry is stocked with most of what I need, and I no longer spend hours wandering around Whole Foods trying to find various ingredients.  The fifteen minute food shop has finally become a reality!

That being said, at least once or twice a week I deliberately try some new recipes, both to keep learning and to inject some variety into our diet. So rather than continue with the “what we had for dinner today” approach (um, you’ve already seen most of what we’ve been eating for dinner lately) on this blog, I decided to offer up one recipe each week that we think is worth sharing. And that brings us to this delicious Italian Apple Cake. DSCN2472 Last night we had friends over for dinner and the menu included lasagna, caesar salad (both from Oh She Glows) and some crusty bread.  I wanted to find a simple, not too sweet, non-chocolate (one of our guests couldn’t eat chocolate) cake that would work well with the rest of the meal.  I settled on another recipe from Chloe Coscarelli and you can find it here.

If you tend to keep apples around (the cake only uses 3) you probably have all the ingredients you need to throw this together.  You layer some thinly sliced apples on the bottom of the pan (that odd crinkly design on mine is from the parchment paper–bring on the powdered sugar!) and press the batter on top.  The batter really has more of dough-like consistency but the apples give off lots of moisture as the cake cooks.  The recipe doesn’t specify what kind of apples to use so I used granny smith.  This worked out well texture-wise and didn’t make the cake too sweet.

This fruity and light cake was just enough after a filling meal.  We all thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’m looking forward to sharing more “recipes of the week”.  Please stay tuned…

Sunday Night Scramble and Perfect Cupcakes

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I have to admit that when I first heard about “tofu scrambles” I thought it sounded downright odd.  I like tofu prepared all kinds of ways, but I just couldn’t envision it “scrambled”.  I’m glad I finally gave it a try because this tofu scramble has quickly become a regular dish on the weekend rotation.   It’s fast to prepare with ingredients I usually have on hand (today I didn’t, but my sous-chef extraordinaire ran out to the supermarket to buy them), and after weekends that usually involve some mix of hiking, socializing, eating out and hours of football on TV (yay Cardinals!),  I’m ready to keep it simple on Sunday night.

These recipes are all over the internet, but I chose a “southwest” version from The Minimalist Baker.  You can check out the recipe here.  This is a one skillet dish.  Sauté the veggies, sauté the tofu and drizzle on a liquid spice blend (cumin, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, turmeric and water).  Toss it all together, heat it through and you’re done!  Since we’re dealing with tofu here, you can’t really over or undercook it– much more forgiving than eggs.  And the flavors that make a great traditional scramble work equally well here.  We served it up with some grainy toast and salad but it would also make a great “breakfast for dinner” burrito.  The possibilities are endless.

For dessert we dug into this:

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Oh yeah.

Our grandson, Sky, turned five this week, and today we celebrated his birthday with him.  He requested cupcakes so, of course, I obliged.  The chocolate cake/vanilla icing was his choice.  I’m not a huge cupcake baker but I can say with certainty that this is a killer recipe.  We were all licking our fingers.  I used a recipe from Oh She Glows (you can find it here).  No eggs but a whole lot of chocolate flavor and perfect moist texture.

For the frosting I went back to The Minimalist Baker.  This is a classic “buttercream” using a stick of Earth Balance instead of the butter.  The recipe is here.  It whipped up beautifully and was just the right amount of (super) sweet.  I always did prefer the classics at birthday time.  We sent the leftovers home with Jeff and Sky but we saved one cupcake to share (enough sugar already!):

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So so good.  These cupcakes are not gluten-free.  I recently discovered that my beloved “Cup for Cup” gluten-free flour contains milk protein so I’m on the hunt for another reliable gluten-free flour.  I’ve read that Bob’s Red Mill now makes a cup-for-cup flour but it hasn’t made it to our Whole Foods yet.  I do plan to try it.  For now, though, I’m okay using regular organic all-purpose.

A recipe like this comes in handy this time of year.  Show up with a platter of these cupcakes to your holiday celebration or office party and everyone (vegan and non-) will thank you.  I promise.

 

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?

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

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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:

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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.

Vegan Quickies: When You Need A…

…cheap meal for a crowd.

Try this three bean and tempeh chili:

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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:

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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:

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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!

Vegan Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

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YUM.

So here’s what I’m learning about vegan desserts.  The more dairy and egg-laden the dessert you are trying to replicate or “veganize” the more ways that dessert can go horribly wrong.  I learned this one the hard way over the weekend when I bought a delectable-looking slice of vegan, gluten-free (really, it is??) carrot cake from a very lovely lady at a local farmers’ market.  It looked pretty much like the one I make (or made in my not-so-distant past life).  I figured it might not be hard to get a good carrot cake going but I was skeptical about that creamy-looking icing.  Well, this dessert was both gummy and oddly “off” tasting.  Very different and not in a good way.  I was feeling a little underwhelmed about the prospects for mouthwatering vegan desserts, either bought or homemade.

Enter this recipe from Tori Avey.  I’ve made several of her recipes, and I like how she balances flavors.  Since it’s apple season, I was immediately drawn to this recipe for Apple Crisp.  I was delighted to see that the only veganizing that needed to be done was to substitute Earth Balance for butter in the crumble.  Since this recipe has such strong flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove I didn’t think I’d miss the butter.  I didn’t.  The combination of tart granny smith apples with the sugar and spices was perfect.  The crumble, made primarily with walnuts and rolled (GF) oats, was crunchy and very satisfying. The only new ingredient for me was minute tapioca which I added to the fruit to bring out the juices and help them set up just a bit.

Here’s a look at the apples:

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Layered with a nice thick layer of crumble:

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And after an hour of baking:

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And the house smelled amazing.  While we are enjoying sunny warm weather here in Arizona, the smells of autumn are still very welcome. Any fruit pie can be made this way, and I’m sure that peach and blueberry crumble would be terrific.

Well now, this is all very encouraging.  Perhaps they have room for me over at the farmers’ market 🙂

 

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Or more accurately, ten rows forward and five rows back.

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This shawl, my latest knitting project, has been sent by the universe to teach me something.  I’m sure that’s what’s going on here.

The short version (of the long/endless shawl project) is that I keep making the same mistakes over and over.  And while I can fix many mistakes now, the one I keep making can’t be fixed (by someone at my skill level anyway).  And this time I can’t “live with it” either because the result will be a wholly unraveled shawl.  I’ll spare you the details about the exact sort of knitting trouble I’m getting into but suffice it to say that I don’t usually notice the problem until I am rows and rows along, which means I have to painstakingly backtrack stitch by stitch, row by row.  There are about 400 stitches in each row.  On Sunday, I spent the entire afternoon watching football and knitting backwards.  Yikes.

Today I finally got back in “drive”;  I was literally down to the last three rows (I’ve been to this point before by the way) when I spotted another mistake about four rows back.  So really, at this point it is time to contemplate those bigger universal lessons.  I think I’m struggling with the same situation over and over because I have yet to master the following : Patience, process rather than results, patience, acceptance of things we can not change, patience, kindness to self, patience, gratitude for do-overs, patience, using lifelines (knitting term), patience.  Oh, and did I mention patience?

In meditation I’m learning that I can hang in and be with some pretty annoying thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.  They won’t kill me.  They will pass.  And in my day-to-day life I’m always trying to remember that, especially when things aren’t going my way.  This Sisyphean knitting project will end.  I will be the proud owner of a beautiful shawl that (hopefully) will not unravel at an inopportune time.  I’m just not going to finish it today as I had hoped and planned.  And that is not a catastrophe.

Oh and there’s one more lesson:

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I am allowed to step away from that which is making me unhappy and find something else that will make me happier-baking this cake, for instance.  If you want to bake it, I promise it will make you happier too.  The recipe is here.