Friday, December 2, 2011

Happy Holidays

Dear BFF,

Around the Holidays, I find myself doing things that my mom did for me as a kid. Not big things, but little ones. Like this morning, I put milk in my oatmeal (almond milk of course). As a kid, my mom would put milk into our already cooked oatmeal & it was so much heavier and creamier than was comfort food! And this morning I suppose that I needed a little extra comfort in my tummy.

I started to think of the other little Holiday or comfort things that I do automatically that remind me of my childhood. I use extra pie crust to make mini cinnamon rolls (roll out unused pie crust, 'butter' with earth balance, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, roll up, cut into pieces and bake!). When the weather gets cold, I start breaking out the crock pot for some hearty soups and stews with really crusty bread. I sew pajamas for loved ones, bake yummy treats for neighbors, attend Christmas Eve candlelight service with my family, smile ear to ear as my nephew opens his gifts, and snuggle on the couch with my husband, dog and a glass of wine, basking in the glow of the tree. We always have amazing food...Christmas Eve we eat mushroom and spinach crepes at my mom's house. On Christmas Day we have "Holiday Lasagna" at my sister-in-law's house. These are my holiday traditions. Not one of them is compromised by my choice to eat a compassionate diet...why would they be?

The meals have changed a bit over the years, and this change has only enhanced our experience. We have new traditions that mean so much more than the old ones. We look forward to the crepes each Christmas because we only eat them once a year! And the "Holiday Lasagna" is something we laugh and bond over, seeing as how not one of us is even a little Italian (we are German, Irish, Polish, Scottish....). You do not lose anything by choosing a cruelty free fact you gain so much. Remember that not choosing a compassionate Holiday is still a choice. Doing things the way they've always been done is a CHOICE. Break the lives this Holiday season...make new traditions! I can guarantee years down the road, you will not remember the specific things you ate, but you will remember the time spent with loved-ones and the lives you saved with your compassionate choice.

Peace and love,
Your BFF are some links to cruelty free charities this season...please say 'no' to Heifer International!
Farm Sanctuary
The Best Christmas Gift Ever-PETA
Or check out PCRM's Humane Seal webiste for other cruelty-free charities! They will even tell you the charities that are NOT cruelty-free.
Please notice that the dog's stocking has the most presents:)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Vegan Etiquette for Vegans and Non-Vegans

Coming off of a really busy and fun Halloween weekend, I wanted to blog about my vegan Halloween party. I wanted to tell you how awesome all my friends are & talk about all the delicious food we ate. Like the BEST EVER guacamole, pumpkin dip, hummus, spicy pumpkin tofu phyllo dough yumminess, oshi tashi, and more! But then I realized that maybe not everyone has such cool people in their lives who support their vegan lifestyle...or maybe they're just not sure how to. So I decided to write about how you should act in these vegan situations! Just a few simple guidelines:)

For Vegans:
1. If you are invited to someone's house for a party or dinner, do not expect them to make food for you. I know, I know...if they love you & know you are vegan, they likely will have food for you to eat. The important thing is not to expect it. Come prepared! Bring a vegan dish to share with everyone. Nobody likes the bummed out vegan snacking on a bag of granola at the table while everyone else eats. And make sure it's something that you think your hosts will like. If you know your hosts hate olives, do not take your world famous olive tapanade. Duh.

2. Do encourage your friends to bring vegan dishes to your own party, but again, don't expect that. Have plenty of delicious vegan food & a variety to accomodate all tastes. It's ok to ask that your party remain vegan, but please don't starve your guests. And offer to give suggestions if they want to bring food. Also remind your guests that they do not have to bring anything! You are the host & you will provide plenty of food and drink. Right??

3. DO NOT lecture your friends about living the vegan lifestyle at gatherings whether it's your hosue or not. By all means, do answer questions about why you are vegan if they are asked of you. But a party is not a time to point out the horrors of factory farming. There is always the person who really wants to discuss this subject. I say, if they ask for it give it to them. But be cognizant of the others in the room & again, don't be the vegan bummer. Exception: If your party is a screening of the movie Earthlings, then lecture away...they knew what they were getting into when they rsvp'd.

For Non-Vegans:
1. If you are invited to a party for a vegan or at a vegan's house and want to bring food, make sure it is something that your host can eat. Do not show up with a cheese plate & say that's the best you could do. If your host went through all the effort to plan a party & provide you with booze and food, do not show up with something they cannot eat. You wouldn't show up to a friend's house who has a peanut allergy with peanut butter cookies & say that's the best you could do. It's honestly better to take nothing. Or when in doubt take a bottle of wine. If they don't drink, maybe a nice box of tea. Or how about some chips and salsa or hummus. None require any prep & your host or guest of honor will really appreciate that the "best you could do" thoughtfully included them :)

2. If you are having a party of your own & you invite a vegan, have something for them to eat. Most likely they will bring some food (especially if they've read this blog) and will be so wonderfully surprised at your thoughtful inclusion of them in your menu-planning!

3. If you are having a formal event, especially one in which your guests will be bringing you gifts or money (like a wedding)...feed your vegan guests. Honestly, I know this is like regular etiquette and not vegan specific etiquette, but I feel it should be said. Caterers are accustomed to catering to special dietary needs, so  vegan hors d'oeuvres or a meal will not be a stretch for them. It also shouldn't cost you any extra. In Pittsburgh especially, the caterers are used to dealing with crazy celebrity requests 'like no white food' or 'I only eat raw almonds, organic apples, and kosher dill pickles'. Again, if you've gone to the trouble to invite your vegan guests and let's face it, you know they're bringing a wedding's not too much to ask to make sure they have food to eat. Imagine how hurt they would be if there was nothing for them to eat? It would make them feel like you don't care. Hubs and I had an amazing meal at my cousins wedding this past was just one call to the caterer, & we appreciated it so very much!

Like I said earlier, my friends are awesome! They are so creative with the food they make. From Birthdays, to Book Clubs, to summer cook-outs...they have thoughtfully made food for us to eat. We feel so very loved and blessed.

A spooky photo from out "Horror Film" Halloween Party

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday is wheatmeat day!

Wednesdays are wheatmeat days in the BFF household. This is mostly because I'm off from work & have the time to do it. What is wheatmeat? Wheatmeat is what I call a Seitan-like faux meat made from vital wheat gluten and water. Basically you take equal parts vital wheat gluten and water, mix and knead for 5 minutes. Then you can slice or chop it, cook it in a broth with seasonings, and then if you want it chewier you bake it as well. In Sarah Kramer's cookbook La Dolce Vegan, she has different concoctions of broth and seasonings to mimic beef, chicken, turkey, etc.
Faux Beef from La Dolce Vegan
I make a meal reminiscent of the meat and potatoes we ate as kids, but cruelty free of course. Above is the Faux Beef with mashed potatoes and carrots, mushroom gravy, and lima beans. Sometimes you need a little veganized taste of home.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kale for breakfast? Hells yeah!

I love this time of year when CSA's and farmers markets are overflowing with kale. When I went to pick up my CSA yesterday, there was a mound of kale sitting in the swap box. I asked the women helping me what the deal was with all the kale & she said that people just don't know what to do with it! So I got a couple extra handfuls and left happy as a hippie.

Here's what I had for breakfast...sauteed kale and rice. Yum!
I wash the kale but don't dry it (the water helps steam as it cooks), tear into bite sized pieces and then saute in a little olive oil. I put a lid on the skillet to aid in the steaming and add some sea salt for flavor. Cook over medium until it's at your own desired consistency. Serve over rice & that's breakfast!

I also juice kale and make kale chips. Kale chips are super easy. Wash & dry kale, then tear into bite sized pieces. Spread them out on a baking sheet & drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. You can also add any other spices that inspire you in the moment! Bake at 350 or 400 for 5-10 minutes or longer, depending on how crispy you want them. I usually check them every 5 minutes until they are just right. Yum!

Did you know that one cup of cooked, chopped kale has 2.47g protein, 2.6g fiber, 94mg calcium, 1.17mg iron, 296mg potassium, 23mg magnesium, and 53.3mg vitamin C! Eat more kale!!

Peace, Love, and Greens,
Your BFF

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Life is like a box of chocolates...or a jar of green tomatoes.

Hey BFF! Here's what I've been up to: CANNING. My mom and her friend used to can all the time when I was a kid & I loved the grape juice and strawberry preserves they made. I started canning last year when I had an abundance of tomatoes threatening to rot in front of my face. I canned a bunch & used them throughout the year in sauces, chilies, and lots of other recipes. It was awesome! I've also tried my hand at apple butter and pickles. But this year I had an abundance of green beans and green tomatoes! I also got some concord grapes through my CSA, so I made juice! So easy, albeit time consuming. Take a look:

                                                 Dilled Green Beans! I can't wait to try them!

                                                  Concord Grape Juice! Move over Welch's!

And here's what I did with all those grape tomatoes that never turned red. Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes. I'm so excited to try them! Fresh dill, garlic, and jalapeno...yum!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mandy's Pizza and More...or Less

So BFF, You know how people used to go crazy when a Krispy Kreme would open in their neighborhood and they'd get all worked up & stand in line for an hour? Well, this is the same excitement that comes over a vegan when they discover and pizza place with vegan pizza...that delivers! They will bring it right to my house! Can you even believe it???? I recently found out that Mandy's Pizza and More has gluten free and allergen free pizza & hoagies. Their menu even says suitable for vegan lifestyle! Hooray!!!! So hubs and I ordered a pizza and a "hoagie" and here's where it went down hill...

They have a sign outside of their shop that says they offer gluten and allergen free pizza and HOAGIES. But when I tried to order the hoagie, I was told it was more of a flatbread sandwich using the same crust as for the pizza. And I was hoping for a regular crust pizza with the vegan cheese, but apparently the regular crust is not vegan. Okay fine, we'll try it. When he gave the the total over the phone I almost fell over...$35 for 1 pizza and 1 sandwich! And when I took a look at the pizza I almost fell over was only a 4 slice pizza!!!!!!

Flatbread sandwich...looks pretty...tastes not so much.

Other disappointments: the menu describes the mushrooms as "fresh"...which is a total lie as they are either from a can or jar (yuck!!!!). They also boast a "secret" dairy alternative cheese, which is Daiya. Or identical in flavor and consistency. The crust was not good at all. And the sandwich was just tasted like crappy pizza dough and banana peppers. Totally not worth the outrageous prices...You can spend just as much at Pizza Fusion & get a large organic vegan pizza that is gourmet! But for us, we'll just stick to our good old stand-by. Spak Brothers in Garfield. You can get a large (8 cut) pizza with all the same toppings as Mandy's for under $15! And it is delicious! They also offer true vegan hoagies on real bread, like the Seitan Cheese "Steak" or the Seitan Pittsburgh "Steak". Even add a side of Seitan wings with vegan buffalo sauce.  They may not deliver, but it's well work the drive.

People with gluten allergies may be used to eating crusts that taste like cardboard, but vegans are not! If Trader Joe's can make a delicious vegan pizza dough and sell it for 99 cents, I think Mandy's can do better. But their focus is on allergen free, and I definitely think there is a need for this...especially for all those GFCF kids out there. But there has to be a way to make this more affordable? Sorry if I sound a little harsh, but this vegan is disappointed. But on the bright side...Sesame Inn will still bring Chinese food right to my door!

Till next time BFF...I'll be sharing with you what I've been up to since dropping out of the challenge!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And....I'm out.

After much consideration, I have decided (along with hubs) to withdraw from the La Dolce Vegan Challenge sponsored by The Vegan Culinary Institute. I've come to this decision mainly because of the amount of money I am spending on food that I would never normally buy (frozen peaches, cherries, raspberries, etc.) and also because of the amount of sugar I am consuming. Hubs and I rarely eat dessert (special occasions) and making a dessert every three days is really changing the way my clothes fit me. I have been giving away the desserts, but I cannot continue (financially) to feed all my neighbors. There also seems to be a changing of the guard as far as who is running the challenge, so now seems like a good time to bow out.

To Sarah, thank you for your wonderful cookbooks. I just adore them & cook with them all the time!

To The Vegan Culinary Institute, what a wonderful idea & thank you for hosting and inspiring!

To the other contestants, good luck & I'll still be following along!

To you dear BFF, I will continue to blog about my adventures in vegan cooking, I promise! The blog must go on!

Gawd, I'm so dramatic!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Days 10, 13, 16, and 42 & a minor kitchen fire...

Just a reminder that I am involved in The La Dolce Vegan cooking challenge sponsored by The Vegan Culinary Institute, wherein we cook our way through La Dolce Vegan cookbook by Sarah Kramer & blog about our experiences.

I had a bit of a catch up day yesterday...all desserts! I have an event tomorrow where I'm in charge of desserts, so I saved a bunch for then & also skipped ahead so I'd have enough to share. Here we go:

Day 10 ~ Espresso Cake (247) with Chocolate Glaze (260). First of all, I don't have an espresso maker, so I went up to my local coffee shop for the espresso, thanks Coffee Buddha! I also decided to double the recipe since I need to feed lots of people. The cake recipe was very easy and smelled like heaven! I didn't have a double boiler for the glaze, so I had to fashion one. It was a little messy but did the job. I didn't get to try the finished product yet, but can't wait to!

Day 13 ~ Stephanie's Asteroids aka Sugar Bombs aka Crack aka Instant Cavity (page 209). In my baking frenzy yesterday, I forgot to make these. So I whipped them up this morning before breakfast! Quick and easy. I screwed up by putting the sugar (a reduced 2/3 cup) into the dry mixture, so I ended up putting the remaining 1/3 cup on the stove with the peanut butter and soy milk. It turned out fine & actually made them look a little sparkly:). But so much for trying to watch the sugar intake. My advice before rolling this sticky little nuggets of goo in your hands is to wet your hands with cold water...makes life much easier. And holy sugar!!!! Be so careful giving these to your kids...they may not sleep for days! These are like a non-drug drug...I'm still buzzing! Yum!

Day 16 ~ Cherry Cobbler (page 230). Okay so I hate cherry pie, cherry cobbler, or anything to do with cooked cherries. I only like them fresh. But I actually didn't mind this recipe so much. I loved the little "biscuits" that made up the cobbler part. This literally makes exactly 4 servings...Sarah Kramer is a genius for coming up with this idea. (Though it did sabotage my plan to feed 30 people with it. What was I thinking??) Love it...2 thumbs up. Next time I might try it with strawberries or blueberries.

Day 42 ~ Cranberry Apple Crisp (page 234). This is my skip ahead recipe, since the cobbler couldn't feed more than 4 people. I doubled this recipe as well for the number of people I want to serve and also didn't get to try it just yet. I didn't have enough cranberries for the doubled recipe, so I used blueberries. It was 2 cups cranberries and 1 cup blueberries. Looks delicious & smells fantastic! Just like fall. The hardest part was chopping the apples. But if you have an apple peeler-corer-slicer, it's a breeze. Whoever invented this thing is a stinking genius! It is perfect for making apple pies. If you don't own the stand, you may want to think about getting it, as this doesn't clamp on my kitchen counter tops. You know another thing I love from Pampered Chef? These measuring spoons. Another genius invention and space saver. And for $8, you are going to save yourself a world of hassle. No I do not sell Pampered chef, I am just in love with these two purchases! Anywho...check out the Crisp:

And now on to my final order of blogging...the kitchen fire. As all my lovely desserts were cooling on trivets on the stovetop, I decided to rest and make myself a cup of tea. I put the teapot on the stove, turned it on, and walked away. Within about 10 minutes the house was filled with smoke. I turned on a burner under one of my cooking desserts & set the wooden trivet on fire...and I mean real flames! This is not the first time I have done this & it's one of the reasons I really miss my gas stove. This is, however, the first time there have been actual flames. But I learned smoke detectors don't work so great! I got the smoke cleared, but my house definitely smells like a campfire. Ah well...what an adventure!

Lying on the floor where I tossed it after smothering the flames. *sigh*

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mmmmmmm Noodle Soup...

Day ~ 15 Soba Noodle Miso Soup page 103

So, BFF, I love Miso soup & I love noodle soup & I love Bok I was very excited about this recipe....and it did not disappoint! the flavor was wonderful & I loved the addition of the Nori. I have my own Gamashio recipe (from my yoga mentor) that I love and swear by and use on EVERYTHING! But in the spirit of challenge and because I'm trying to incorporate more sea veggies in my diet, I tried Sarah's recipe. And of course I loved it because she is a genius! It was wonderful on top of my noodle soup, I mean soup, I mean noodle soup, damn! I think I may have added too many noodles to this soup, but I really didn't mind. It reminds me of Joey on Friends:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Asteroids, Migraines, and Day 14...

So, BFF, first of all...Day 13 ~ Stephanie's Asteroids (no-bake cookies) are gonna have to wait until Thursday or Friday. But I did make Day 14 ~ Cool Cucumber Salad (pg 83) and Creamy Soygurt Dressing (pg 94). So easy and so stinking delicious! I had this along side the Cumin Rice (really growin' on me!) topped with some Sriracha! I love the hot and cool flavors! I ate so much of this for first I had them neatly separated on the plate, but by the end it was all mushed together and delicious. Very glad there was nobody here to witness the spectacle of me eating. Eesh.

Now on to the Migraine issue. So, I'm a migraine sufferer. Usually it's hormone related & usually it doesn't hurt. I just get some tingling in the right side of my face & that's how I know it's happening. But once or twice a year, I get that really really painful and terrible one. Today was that day. I had pain, tingling, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea. It was awful. And to top it was my first day of teaching yoga at a new place. So I decided to try some home remedies. 1st I drank a cup of warm water with 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Then I soaked a hand towel in water & put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes & then on my head and eyes. I took this little rest for about 1/2 hour. Then I made my go-to-fixer-upper, hot water with 7-8 thin slices of fresh ginger (a recipe from my yoga mentor). My ginger "tea"...I use this for everything...headaches, allergies, sinus issues, fatigue, tummy name it. Anywho...After all these remedies, I actually felt better. Not 100%, but definitely functional. I thought I should share this with you, BFF, in case you ever need it (& I hope you never do).

Follow up on the Cumin Spiced Rice...

Well BFF, I'm the kind of person who can admit when she's wrong, and I was wrong about this rice. Today I took the rice & fried it up in a pan & served with stir fried baby bok choy & it was very good! I think maybe it needs to be paired with something else? Anywho...sorry Sarah & Cumin Fried Rice...I dig you both very much:)

**I cooked the bok choy in the wok with some dark sesame oil, garlic, fresh ginger, and at the end a tiny splash soy sauce. yum!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 12 ~ Cumin Spiced Brown Rice page 190

So I love cumin and I love rice, but did not love this dish so much. It was a little bland...maybe I need to add salt? I used veggie broth, but couldn't really taste it in the end. And it was also a little oily. Not sure I'll make it again...I also hate waiting for rice to cook (40-45 minutes). I thought of maybe doing this in my rice cooker, but I don't have any experience doing full dishes like this in there...Hmmmmmm...I might have to experiment.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 11 ~ Karen's Mexican Burrito Pie

What a tasty treat this was! I have never thought about cooking avocados before, but it was really delightful! My only problems with this recipe is the number of dirty dishes and utensils it created & it came out of the oven still cold ( I think I may need to invest in an oven thermometer like Sarah recommends). This makes a lot of food! We're going to be eating it for days! Hubs really really liked it too! I used jarred salsa because I had it & didn't want to dirty more dishes...I'm so lazy.

Just look at all those yummy layers!!!! Next time I might use Daiya Pepperjack cheese for a little added kick!

I served it up with my special Mexican rice and fresh jalapenos from my brother!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Not in a good way...

Hey BFF...I've been having a rough few days. I'm feeling really down. I'm feeling down on the yoga community and down on the vegan community and down in general. Ever have those days where you feel hopeless? Like you can't change the world the way you thought you could? Like you just don't want to be a part of a world that does such cruel and awful things? Like if you had a spaceship you'd get the eff outta here? Yeah, that's how I'm feeling. I wonder if this is how Chris Crocker felt when everyone was picking on Britney?

Watch out for the eff bomb & other bad words out of Chris's mouth. When you are distraught, these things just happen. *Hugs* Chris.

At least I've still got my weird sense of humor, BFF.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 9 ~ Noodle Salad with Nut Dressing

Recipe on page 81.

BFF, I'm not usually a fan of cold noodle salads with peanut sauce or any other nut sauce for that matter. But this is sooooo yummy! I used peanut butter, but mixed with all other ingredients it was not too peanuty. I used Agave Nectar instead of the sugar (I just can't do anymore sugar), and it wasn't too sweet at all. I also used Mugwort Soba noodles & they were delicious & added some extra color to the dish. There's a nice little spicy kick to this noodle salad that was a nice surprise. Thanks Vegan Culinary Institute once again for hosting this challenge...I'm finding lots of delightful new recipes!

Day ~ 8 ~ Baby Spinach and Apple Salad with Sweet Red Wine Vinaigrette

Recipe found on page 77.

Dear BFF,

I love me a spinach salad! And this one tasted just like fall! I didn't have raisins and don't really like them anywho, so I subbed a dried berry mix that I had on hand (cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and plums). The berry mix along with a tart apple made this salad just perfect in my opinion! And hubs, who could care less about dressing, actually commented on how good this dressing was. I paired this with the potato leek soup from the other night, and it was the perfect rainy day meal!

Heads up, BFF!!! These next few recipes may be a bit out of order. I am strategically planning the desserts to take with me to the lake next weekend. Don't want to make them too far ahead & DEFINITELY don't want to eat them all myself!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Walk for Farm Animals

Dear BFF,

Every year Farm Sanctuary hosts a Walk for Farm Animals, to raise money and awareness for neglected and abused farm animals. I am doing my second walk this year in Pittsburgh and I am writing to request your help! Last year I came in 2nd place as highest fundraiser & Pittsburgh was in the top fundraising cities. We hope to blow both of these out of the water! If you'd like to help farm animals, please sponsor me on my page! There's a quick link in the top right corner! I'm currently in 2nd place again...can you help me get to 1st?
Farm Sanctuary is one of my favorite places on earth. I became vegan after being there for about a minute. FS has literally changed my whole world. I go there for inspiration & encouragement, for peace and reassurance.
Honestly, spend 5 minutes with any animal there & your heart and mind will be forever changed. Farm Sanctuary does life changing and life saving work. They cannot do this without our help and support.
Please help us make a difference in the lives of farm animals. Anything at all is so greatly appreciated.

Peace and Love,
Your Vegan BFF

Day 7 ~ Blueberry Dilip

Blueberry Dilip is found on page 228 of La Dolce Vegan. This recipe was really simple to make & was soooooo stinking delicious! It's a lot like a cobbler & is amazing served warm. My only complaint is the price of blueberries...I used fresh, but the frozen are just as expensive. That being said, I will definitely make it again!I took this to my book club dinner & the girls looooooved it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 6 ~ Simple Leek and Potato Soup

Simple Leek and Potato Soup, page 109.

Perfect soup for a chilly and rainy day in the 'Burgh. This soup was so stinking easy...I'll be making it a lot this winter! I used my immersion blender (second favorite kitchen appliance), but left some chunks in there.

Pair it with some yummy crusty bread & it's the perfect comfort meal. Thanks Sarah!

Juicer a.k.a. Kris Carr

Dear BFF,

I just wanted to take this moment to introduce you to my new juicer, Kris Carr. I have named her Kris Carr after the person Kris Carr a.k.a. The Vegan Juicing Goddess Extraordinaire. The person Kris Carr spoke at Farm Sanctuary this summer & inspired me to invest in a good juicer. So here she is!

Isn't she pretty? I'm in love! She is an Omega 8006 masticating juicer. I wanted a middle of the line juicer (read: didn't want to pay $500+), but I wanted to be able to make juice & store it at least overnight so I don't have to juice everyday (read: lazy). The masticating juicer slowly "chews" up the veggies, squeezing out all the vitaminy goodness. Kris Carr actually sounds like a little bunny chewing on her veggies! This allows the juice to sit awhile before losing all the nutrients. Masticating juicers also yield more juice, more nutrients & enzymes, less foam & can be stored in the fridge for a day or so...perfect! All pieces-parts are dishwasher safe on top rack (bonus!), so she's super easy to clean. I love my green juice!!! Thanks Kris Carr (juicer and person!)!

Kale, romaine, broccoli, pea sprouts, pears, ginger, cucumber, celery.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 5 ~ Peanut Butter Fudge Mounds

Recipe found on page 208 of  La Dolce Vegan.

Crazy name, but these are just No-Bakes! Super easy to make & very yummy. They have the consistency of fudge. I took them to a friend who broke her leg (Feel better Toolie!) and she loved them! I'm so happy to have a vegan version of these cookie favorites!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 4 ~ Gerry's Artichoke and Basil Pasta

Wow, BFF, I cannot believe it's only been 4 days! Here's my official shout out to The Vegan Culinary Institute for sponsoring this challenge...what a challenge it is!

Now on to the recipe. This lovely recipe is found on page 132 of Sarah Kramer La Dolce Vegan. Super easy recipe, accessible and inexpensive ingredients (except the pine nuts ~ cha-ching$$!). I loved being able to use ingredients from my garden. Hubs loved it & commented on what a nice and light pasta dish it was. Easy and delish...will make again!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 3 - Portobello Pot Pie + All Purpose Pie Crust

Here's the recipe from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer:

Crust (this is half the original recipe)
1 c all purpose or pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c vegan margarine
2 tbsp "milk"

1 medium onion chopped
2 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed, cubed
4-6 button mushrooms, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small potato, cubed
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 tbsp tamari
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
3/4 c vegetable stock
2 tbsp flour

To prepare the crust: In a food processor, blend the flour and salt together. Add the margarine and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add "milk" and blend until well combined and a dough forms. Remove dough, roll into a ball, and wrap in plastic; chill for at least 1 hour before using. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a 10 inch pie plate or an 8x8 inch baking dish and set aside. In a large saucepan on medium heat, saute the onions and mushrooms in oil until onions are translucent. Add the potatoes, celery, carrots, tamari, thyme, sage, and stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. cover with a lid and simmer for 4-6 minutes or until potatoes can be poked easily with a fork. Stir in the flour and simmer until sauce begins to thicken. Transfer cooked vegetables to baking dish. Roll out the chilled dough and place evenly over top of vegetables. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Okay's what I did. For the crust (any crust) I usually do all mixing by hand. So I gave the food processor a shot...the first 2 steps went fine, but had to remove the dough for the last step because it kept getting stuck. 2 things...first, my food processor is not the best, and b.) I used whole wheat pastry flour (possibly extra dry???). So I had to knead the dough by hand, adding extra "milk". Things I used: Original Earth Balance for the margarine, Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, and Rice Milk. When it came out of the fridge about 3 hours later, it was hard as a rock. So I had to let it sit for a bit & then work it with my hands        before I could roll it out...even then it was tough.

The filling was easy & pretty self explanatory. I didn't do anything crazy with it except use vegetable broth instead of stock because it's what I had. It smelled so wonderful while it was cooking...just like Thanksgiving. God, I love sage!

Overall, the Porto Pot Pie was delish! Would be a perfect winter comfort food. I was less than impressed with the crust...but maybe I screwed it up with the whole wheat pastry flour. Hubby liked it also except for the crust. Thanks Sarah! It was fun!

P.S...Dear BFF, I am not going to post the list of ingredients & directions for each dish I takes forever & wouldn't be fair to give away all of Sarah's yummy recipes. If you want to follow along buy the cookbook! If there is something in particular that interests you, contact me!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cooking with Sarah ~ Day 2

Recipe #2 ~ No Salt Shaker page 303

This was as easy as it gets! Garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, paprika, ground pepper, dry mustard, celery seed...Viola!

PS...added the dry mustard after I took the picture because I forgot, oops!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cooking with Sarah Day 1

Recipe # 1 ~ Wolffie's Banana Blueberry Muffins ~ pg. 274 La Dolce Vegan!

Aren't they pretty? They were super easy to make & taste really yummy! They look a little dark because I used whole wheat flour.

What I did:
1. Used whole wheat flour because apparently that's all I have in my house.
2. Cut the sugar down to 1/2 cup because 3/4 cup seemed like a lot to me with the sweetness of bananas & molasses. I think they'd still be delicious even with 1/4 cup sugar.
3. Used frozen blueberries instead of fresh.

1. Easy to make.
2. Delicious...had 2 for breakfast.
3. I am going to get fat doing this contest. I'll be making many more sweet things than I normally eat...this could be a problem.
4. I'm going to go broke doing this contest. Blueberries are freaking expensive!
5. I want a bigger kitchen & this thought makes me feel really old.

Thanks Sarah! See you tomorrow!!!

BFF...Let's talk about labels.

Dear BFF,
I'm in a mood. I'm a little cantankerous, if you must know. It has been recently brought to my attention that there are some vegans who really do not like when vegetarians call themselves "veganish" or "95% vegan". I can understand to a point because truthfully, if you are 95% vegan or veganish you ARE in fact vegetarian and not vegan. Refresher - Vegan = nothing from an animal...dairy, eggs, honey, leather, wool, etc. You see the difference? Veganism goes beyond what you put in your pie's a lifestyle. And it is a wonderful lifestyle if I do say so myself.

Now, here's where I get angry. It is not a pissing contest to see who can be more vegan. I don't think these labels make all that much of a difference...if you are vegetarian, almost vegan, 95% vegan, veganish, I think it's awesome! I applaud you all for taking any step at all in the direction of saving animals lives. If you stop eating meat...I'll light up my lighter and sing you "Free Bird"; if you give up eggs...I'll do a cartwheel; if you give up dairy...Rock 'n Roll high kick for you my friend; stop wearing leather?...I'll play you "Paparazzi" on my harmonium! What I'm trying to say here is that I will cheer you on every step of the way! I'm your vegan cheerleader!! You have my support! And 2 extra cartwheels for you if you continue to read to the end.

Truth in Labeling: I'm not actually a cheerleader in this photo. I was on the Dance Team. BUT, I do still own pom-poms & I can honestly do a cartwheel. I was cheerleading captain in 7th grade. So there.

 That being said...let's talk about labels that really do matter.

1. PORK. Pork is a pig. An emotional and loving animal, who is probably smarter than your dog. When you eat a pig, you are ingesting all of the stress and fear of this animal's last horrific moments of life. Chops, ham,  bacon, sausage = carcass of intelligent and sentient being. You can't fancy up a dead pig by calling it "pork".

2. BEEF. Beef is another word for the gorgeous and furry cow. After it's been tortured and killed. Some of these animals die piece by piece because the "stunner" missed. A slow an agonizing death is what these animals endure in the name of faster production and fewer cost. All so you can stuff your face with an artery clogging burger. YOUR money is paying for others to do this to animals. And FYI there is also disease and shit in your dead cow...enjoy. Don't believe me? Look it fact here's a legal petition requesting that the USDA require FSIS for DECLARE feces in meat. Gross.

3. VEAL. Veal is a DEAD BABY COW. Who was never allowed to nurse from it's mom. Never allowed to roam around, play, or even TURN AROUND. You cannot make this nicer by calling it Veal. It is horrible. Don't think calves like to play and run around? I disagree. Wanna see?

4. Let's talk dairy for a minute...know anything about how lactation works? Well then you know that in order for a female to produce milk, they first have to be pregnant. So dairy cows are impregnated, give birth, have their babies taken away (see VEAL) so that we can steal their milk, and impregnated again, and again, and again...until they don't produce enough milk for greedy milk drinkers & then they are sent to be killed (see BEEF) at around age 4 or 5 (normal lifespan is about 25). Oh and bye the way...there is pus and blood in your milk from the cows udders being pumped constantly. Want some more truth? Here it is.

5.EGGS. God don't even get me started on eggs. Chickens might be the most abused animal in America. The male chicks are unwanted because the cannot lay eggs, so they are either thrown in a grinder alive or thrown in the trash alive...and guess what? The grinders don't always kill them...they come out the other end partially ground up and fully conscious. Layer Hens are subjected to unspeakable cruelty and disease in battery cages where they cannot even spread their wings or properly stand up. The hens literally go crazy and develop psychotic behaviors in these cages. Not to mention they have their beaks and toes cut off without anesthesia. Then they are sent to slaughter. And did you know that chickens are exempt from the Humane Slaughter Act? That's right, if you thought "humane slaughter" was bad, imagine what these sensitive animals endure. AND THIS HAPPENS BECAUSE YOU EAT EGGS. Want more info? Here.

6.PROCESSING. Processing = killing. Don't church it up.

YOUR money pays for these things to happen. Think you can ignore it? Act like you aren't making a choice each and every time you buy meat, dairy, or eggs? You can pretend all you want, but this goes on every single minute of every single day in staggering number that would knock your panites off. Make the right choice...You need look no further than your heart to find it. Put your dollar into peaceful and non-violent purchases.  If you could not stomach seeing how your food gets to your plate, then how can you justify eating it?

It is easier than ever to be Vegan. And you are not alone! I'll help you! I can answer questions online. If you live within a 20 mile radius of Pittsburgh...I'll come with you on your first shopping trip! If you live within 10 miles of Pittsburgh & make a serious commitment to being vegan (truly vegan), I'll help you cook your first week of dinners! I'm serious! And it's time for you to get serious too.

I promise not to do many aggressive posts like this. I like to keep things light & fun & supportive. But I needed to vent & isn't it wonderful to have a BFF to vent to? Remember I love you. And your choices matter, YOU matter!

The 90's were AWESOME!
So...How many cartwheels do I need to do?      

Friday, August 26, 2011

La Dolce Vegan Cookbook Challenge...Weeeeeeeeee!

So....Your BFF has entered a contest to cook through Sarah Kramer's La Dolce Vegan cookbook in one year & blog about it! (Think Julie and Julia). I"m so excited!!! You can follow my progress right here on my blog...this is where I am required to post pictures & write about the recipes. The Challenge is being hosted by The Vegan Culinary Institute, check them out too as I'm sure they'll be following everyone's progress as well. Here is Sarah! And Thanks Sarah for not cooking lobsters!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Your Imperfect BFF...Mistakes I've made as a vegan.

After attending my second Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down and hearing Bruce Friedrich speak about mistakes he made as an animal activist, I decided to take a good hard look at myself. I've been a vegan for two years now and I've definitely made some "mistakes", or let's say I "created learning experiences" for myself. Hey, nobody is perfect & especially not your BFF!

Shortly after becoming vegan, I had the amazing privilege to hear some seasoned vegans/animal advocates speak at my first Hoe Down. One such speaker was Gene Baur, founder of Farm Sanctuary, and he said something that really stuck with me. He said that there is no such thing as a perfect vegan...we all somehow do harm to living creatures & the environment. Just by living & breathing, we do some harm. He called veganism an "aspiration". Something to aspire to, continuing to do the most good for animals, step by step, without beating ourselves up. Wow! So here is my list of "learning experiences" and my WWGBD (What Would Gene Baur Do) approach to actually learning from them!
Do my doughnut goggles make you want to forgive me?

     Say you're sorry now, or you can't have dessert. You're a vegan and making everyone here uncomfortable, and you must apologize 100 times. BFF, I'm sorry. This is just a choice I've made for myself, please ignore me, I'm obviously crazy, can we please never mention this again? Honestly, I just recently realized that I am constantly apologizing for being vegan. I apologize to friends who have to "bend over backwards" to provide something for me to eat at parties, I apologize to servers at restaurants for asking questions & for requesting no cheese on my pasta, I apologize to said server for having to take back the pasta that has arrived with cheese, and I apologize to all friends at the table for being "difficult". Ugh! I am so annoying myself! I'm not even sure I can look at myself in a mirror. Oh who am I kidding, I can always look at myself in a mirror...but let's get serious here. In my quest to be the nicest vegan you have ever met, I have "sorry-ed" away my very valid, not to mention compassionate, life choices. This has got to stop! I'm done apologizing. This is who I am, and I'm truly NOT SORRY! WWGBD? I think GB would tell me to have some compassion for myself as well. I can be mindful of animals, others, and myself without feeling the need to say "sorry" 20 times in one sitting. Thanks GB.
**Little side note** I've realized that others always feel the need to apologize to me for their life choices. A friend walks in the door & I compliment her on her outfit. She immediately apologizes to me for her leather belt. As if it's MY skin she's wearing around her waist! Ha! People will be talking about a picnic they had and will apologize to me for every food item mentioned that is not vegan. This is pretty funny...but it's also starting to piss me off!
    I have realized that there are certain places where, times when, and people with whom I feel very comfortable & "let my guard down". What I mean is that in these circumstances, the central focus is not my veganism, & I admit that I like it. We don't have to spend an entire meal/evening talking about me and my life choices, but rather we can focus on more important issues like who's husband is a lazy POS, and remember that time 'Shelly' got so drunk that she fell over, and you'll never believe what my crazy MIL did at my daughter's birthday party! You know, BFF, important life stuff! In these situations I often find myself annoyed & ill-prepared to answer questions and defend my veganism. More often than not I try to get out of the situation and/or say something I end up regretting. WWGBD? I think GB would be open all the time to all possibilities of discussing being vegan. Every situation is an opportunity to share info and advocate for animals. Most people are genuinely curious and not trying to make me feel bad. Lesson learned: ALWAYS be open & prepared to discuss veganism! I also need to recognize that when others apologize to me for their own choices (leather belt, picnic food, etc.), that their own awareness is growing. They are recognizing how their choices affect animals, others, and the environment. In these situations, I am actually a representative of the animals & of the vegan movement, and if they feel the need to apologize then maybe a connection is being made. How cool is that??????
     There have been times where I have caught myself in the grocery store staring at an item for 15+ minutes. What exactly IS this calcium sulfate & is it from an animal? Is this company one that I can support? Do you think they test on animals? Yada, yada, yada...the questions go on and on and on. I have beat myself up over some honey in a loaf of bread. Or buying Revlon mascara because they do not test on animals, but are not completely vegan, but I cannot justify $20 on the Urban Decay mascara right now because I have no job. Ack! It's difficult in the beginning, before you know what companies are safe, what bread is's all a learning process. At the most recent Hoe Down, Bruce, Gene, Victoria Moran, Susie Coston, and Zoe Weil all said the same thing...What will do the MOST GOOD for the animals. Meaning, you've chosen a vegan lifestyle...that is soooooooo good for animals! What if you accidentally buy a loaf of bread with honey in it? Should you throw it away and beat yourself up for it? WWGBD? Dearest GB would remember that we are not perfect and that while we are aspiring to be the best little vegan we can be, there will be minor bumps in the road of lesson learning. Oh, well! Pick yourself up, learn from it, move on, & do better next time! You cannot completely undo all the good you're doing by being vegan with 1 loaf of bread!
    While I do believe that every question is an opportunity to advocate for animals, I also feel that there are certain situations you cannot allow yourself to be sucked into. For instance, the co-worker who says that plants feel pain too, or the steak eating woman who has had one too many glasses of wine, and many other'll know 'em when you see 'em. Some people are looking to get you fired up. Some are looking for a fight. In situations like this, when someone is purposely trying to make you mad...walk away. Change the subject. Stick another forkful of tofu in your mouth. Shut up. And then go home and vent like crazy to someone who will understand! If you know you cannot remain calm in a situation, it's best not to engage at all. WWGBD? I imagine GB to be calm and cool at all times. As a seasoned vegan maybe he never loses his cool...I really can't answer this question for GB. But I go back to what will do the most good for animals? Will coming to blows with a DB hell-bent on making you look bad help more animals? I don't think so. I remember that I am a representative of the vegan movement & realize that sometimes an argument can do more harm than good. There are lots of opportunities each and every's okay to avoid certain ones.

There are many, many more mistakes I've made as a vegan & more in my future. But I remember compassion is my motivator, so some of that should be given to myself.  It's a journey...and it's your journey. Love it! Enjoy it! Eat a vegan doughnut...or three! WWGBD???
Heaven is a vegan doughnut! you can see, I found my vegan doughnuts! I'm the happiest little vegan you've ever seen! Thank you Iron Betty!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Look Out BFF...Hubby Has Taken Over Blog!

Hey guys…it’s your BFF’s hubby.  I asked the wife if I could share a little something with you all that I realized recently.

As you probably know by now from reading this blog, I am also vegan…I am also a fairly active person.  I have done the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge (a 35 mile in one day hike) every summer for the past 10 years, many other similar extreme hikes, I’ve run full and half marathons, 5k’s, 10k’s…you get the idea.  I was doing these things before I was vegan, and I have continued to do them since I became vegan about two years ago.  I am certainly not the fastest guy (or gal) on the trail, I never was, but that’s not my point……I’m getting there.

BFF adding pictures. This one is Hubby coming off the cargo nets.
So far this summer I’ve done two events, the RCTC and The Ruckus.  The Ruckus is this crazy 4 mile, boot camp style, obstacle course with huge mud pits, 12 foot cargo nets to climb over, and all kinds of fun stuff.  It was awesome!  So typically the only time I “work out” is when I am training for one of these events.  I just don’t make the time unless I have goal…a goal like not embarrassing or hurting myself doing one of these stupid things. 

So I’m finally coming to my point.  I barely had (made) any time to train for the two events I did this summer (you know how it goes, work gets busy, the grass needs to be mowed, you’re just too damn lazy), BUT I still rocked them!  In The Ruckus, I was in the top 30% of my category (which consisted of all males under 45…I’m 34…the kid that won it was like 19 or something…so I was pretty happy with that), and that’s without training!

And I didn’t break any personal records doing Rachel Carson this year, but…my recovery time was almost zero!  I was walking around the next day like nothing happened…again, without training!  That is unheard of for me.

Hubby in the mud.
So I’m sure you’re catching my drift (despite the fact that I lack my better half’s eloquence), being vegan makes you better at sports!…No, I’m just kidding, but I do think that for me, being vegan means that I can perform at a level I was always able to before (if not a little better), and my body is able to recover from the “abuse” at a much faster and more efficient rate.  Man, do I love being vegan!

BTW…just to prove I’m not a complete nut…check out this interview with vegan, professional mixed martial artist (cage fighter), Mac Danzig.  I can’t imagine anything much harder on your body than that……except maybe iron man triathlons

Well, I’ll give you back to your BFF now.  Thanks for letting me hijack your blog, darling, and thanks to you for reading.  Let me know if you want to go for a hike sometime!
Finished and all smiles! Isn't he just the cutest thing?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BFF, let's talk about commitment and your hypothalamus!

So....I have been inspired to write this post by a few things: an old friend introducing me & my blog to others, a question about my veganism, and Deepak Chopra. The first two have to do with commitment & the third with the brain. I have been thinking for a while about writing on my "commitment" to being vegan, and I am now reading Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul by Deepak Chopra, which has brought it all together for me.

Sorry BFF, allow me to begin at the beginning. Several weeks ago, while at a picnic, I was asked how I can maintain my vegan lifestyle. Now, let me first say that my guard was down because I was with a group of friends who know me pretty well & eat out with me often. That is to say that I really don't get many vegan questions any more. But my friend's husband mentioned that he could never be vegan & wondered what I did when I got a craving for a big juicy hamburger (ack!). Guard down and all, I was a little annoyed at the questioning & mentioned that I never crave meat because animal corpses do not appeal to me in any way. As the questioning continued, I shrugged my shoulders and said that maybe I was never a really good carnivore in the first place, hoping to end the conversation. BUT, the last thing he said to me really gave me pause. He said that being vegan must really be a "commitment" for me. Hmmmmmmm.....

I thought about my commitments in life. First to my husband. I definitely do not wake up every day and worry about keeping my commitment to be faithful to my husband. He is so much a part of me and my life...being married to him is as essential to me as breathing air. And that is how being vegan is as well. I don't wake up every day committed to being vegan any more than I wake up being committed to breathing air. This is who I am! The day at Farm Sanctuary that I became vegan, changed me on a cellular level. There was no question or just was. The only commitment that I made was to research foods and recipes so that we could really enjoy being vegan and get all of our nutrients. But once I stocked my kitchen...the rest was easy...and here I am, 2 years later, feeling like I've been vegan all my life.

Are you wondering how Deepak Chopra is involved? Well, in his book he talks about Subtle Action. Subtle actions are those that "involve only the mind, whereas gross actions involve direct contact with the material world". And even though subtle action comes naturally to us, it can be broken down into steps. Here is how it works according to Deepak Chopra:
         1. You go inside and make your intention known.
         2. You believe in getting results.
         3. You don't resist the process of change.
         4. Your body shifts effortlessly at the physical level.
         5. You repeat your subtle action until you have mastered the change you desire.

An example in the book is of Tibetan monks who meditate in caves at subzero temps overnight wearing nothing but a thin silk robe and emerge the next morning unaffected. Using subtle action, they tap into the hypothalamus (you were wondering where this would come in!) which controls body temp, and are able to raise their internal temperature by as much as 8 degrees F. Is that incredible or what?!? I also imagine that subtle action is what women in labor sans drugs are tapping into, especially those women using Hypnobirthing techniques. But I digress....

My apologies to Mr. Chopra if I am misunderstanding or misusing his explanation of subtle action, but this is what happened to me when I became vegan. I had a very strong reaction to the animals at Farm Sanctuary and the stories of abuse in the meat and dairy industries. I told myself that I was now vegan, I was open to that change, & BAM! I am vegan. It was easy and effortless because the change happened all the way down to my cells.

So there it is...Many thanks to Deepak Chopra for explaining what I have been feeling and unable to put into words. I would also like to renew my commitment to this blog, beginning at a once a month entry. It's at least a start, BFF. And just one more time, I'd like to say 'hypothalamus'. That was fun!

Peace, Love, and Kale,
Your Vegan BFF

PS. The second most common question I get after "Where do you get your protein?" is "Is there any food that you miss?". My answer is that I have been craving a really really good and sweet DOUGHNUT for almost 2 years now! Somebody hook me up!
These are real vegan doughnuts from Mighty-O Donuts in Seattle!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Miss me? I'm back!

Dear BFF,

I'm sorry for being absent for so long. I hope I didn't hurt your feelings. It has been an exceptionally long and challenging winter for me. Please accept my apologies for neglecting our friendship...I will try very hard not to let it happen again.

So anywho, how are you? I hope you are getting ready for spring and all the sunshine that it brings! I have had a few requests for kid-friendly recipes, and as I don't have any kids of my own, I'm kind of guessing on this one! But what kid doesn't like burgers & mac-n-cheese? Here you go...this one's for you Rach!

Black Bean Burgers from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero
makes 6 burgers and takes about 30 minutes

2 cups cooked or 1 15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten (this gives them a great consistency) can be found at Giant Eagle, Bob's Red Mill is a good brand
1/2 cup plain whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp tomato paste or ketchup
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro (optional)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 small onion
About 2 tbsp olive oil plus olive oil spray
Whole wheat buns

Mash the beans with a fork in a mixing bowl. Leave some half beans, but don't puree. Add the wheat gluten, bread crumbs, chile powder, cumin, water, and tomato paste ( and cilantro if using), but don't mix yet. Use a garlic press or microplane grater to grate the garlic in. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate in the onion.
Mix everything together with a fork and then proceed to knead with your hands until the mixture is firm and uniformly mixed (about a minute).
Preheat heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.
Divide burger mixture into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a firm ball. Use your palm to press the ball down on a clean surface to form a patty that is about 1 1/2 inch thick.
Pour a thin layer of olive oil into the pan. Cook the patties 5 minutes on each side, gently but firmly pressing them down with a spatula. Spray or brush with olive oil before turning over, for uniform browning. Once done, the patties should be very firm when you press down on them.
Enjoy with your favorite toppings! BBQ sauce, sprouts, avocado, etc...

Macaroni & Four Cheeses from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch by Rory Freeman & Kim Barnouin
Serves 8

1 tbsp refined coconut oil, melted, or safflower oil, + more for the casserole dish
About 2 tbsp fine sea salt
1 pound elbow macaroni (try whole wheat or brown rice for a change!)
2 (10 oz) packages frozen pureed winter squash
2 cups soy or rice milk
4 oz vegan cheddar cheese shredded (try Daiya, found with other dairy shredded cheese)
2 oz vegan jack cheese (again I highly recommend Daiya)
4 oz (about 1/2 cup) vegan cream cheese (try Tofutti, found near the tofu)
1 1/2 tsp powdered mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
2 tbsp vegan Parmesan cheese (find near the Tofutti or make your own by following this link!)

Preheat oven to 375. Oil a 2 qt casserole dish; set aside.
In a 4-6 qt saucepan over high heat, combine 3 qts of water w/ about 1 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil and add the macaroni and cook according to package directions.
 Meanwhile, in a 3-4 qt saucepan over medium heat, combine the squash and milk, stirring and breaking up the squash with a spoon until defrosted. Increase the heat to med-high and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheddar, Jack, cream cheese, mustard, cayenne, and the remaining tbsp of salt.
When the pasta is done, drain it and return to the pot. Stir the cheese sauce into the macaroni. Transfer to the prepared baking pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and 1 tbsp of oil. Sprinkle over the top of the mac and cheese. Place casserole dish on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes until the top is browned.
***Tips for introducing new/weird/exciting meals to your family***
As I said earlier, I have no children of my own. I did, however, work with children with autism for 5 years, and getting them to try new foods was a part of therapy for many. Lots of these amazing kids had aversions to certain flavors, textures, and change in and of itself. So here are my tips:
  • Give plenty of notice that you will be trying something new. Maybe have "new food Wednesdays" and make everyone try at least 2-3 bites of everything. Give at least 1-2 days notice that you will be trying a new meal.
  • Make it fun! Try not to make it seem like a chore right off the bat. Only give the 2-3 bite rule if there is resistance at the meal itself.
  • If your kids ask what's in it, be honest!
  • Give lots of praise for trying something new and being brave!!!
Again, you know your family best, so do what works for you. And let me know how they like it!