Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving: What We Ate

Thanksgiving centerpiece.  A gift from my beloved.

One of the most often asked questions is "what are you going to eat on Thanksgiving?!".  It's said with a tone of horror as no one could possibly understand a Thanksgiving without eating a turkey.

Maybe it's just me but the turkey has never been the center of my foodie dreams even when I was an omnivore.  It's the sides!  The wonderful, herb filled, savory and sweet sides!

I carefully planned out the menu and asked family members to bring some items as well.  Mom brought cranberry orange relish, brussels sprouts and a vegan apple pie and my sister and brother-in-law brought roasted root vegetables and a vegan blueberry pie.

Pretty pie made by yours truly.

I had many things prepared ahead of time such as the pumpkin pie, stuffing with chestnuts, apples, pecans and raisins and the candied yams with ginger.  Preparing these items ahead of time turned out to be a godsend as I will explain later.

We had mulled wine and appetizers before the meal.  The appetizers consisted of guacamole, hummus and various crackers and chips.  I was originally going to make stuffed mushrooms but ran out of time.  My only regret is that I didn't have enough time to visit with my sweet granddaughter and my son, daughter and son-in-law.  Such is the plight of the chef!

My son a.k.a. Batdan

I put my mom on KP duty and had her peeling potatoes for mashed potatoes.  I had cooked up some caramelized onions the day before to add to the potatoes which turned out to be a delicious decision.

Right as I started to make the mushroom gravy I had a bit of a setback when my oven tripped a circuit breaker.  This has happened before but I was always able to reset it.  Not this time.

Thanks to the ingenuity of my family and Dr. D., we pulled it off using my crockpot, electric skillet (had to blow the cobwebs off that puppy) and the toaster oven.

The rolls went in the toaster oven, the sweet potatoes were heated up in the electric skillet after the gravy was done and the stuffing went into the crockpot.

Through some sort of Thanksgiving miracle, everything was finished right on time and everyone loved it!

Now I'm looking for volunteers to do dishes.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Foodie Friday! Field Roast Grain Meat

This Friday's food post doesn't feature a recipe.  Instead, it's a chance to call to your attention an amazing product.  Field Roast Grain Meat has a variety of plant-based meats that will knock your socks off!

The first one I tried was the Apple Sage Sausage I used in my Sausage n' Kraut Skillet recipe.  I will remind you that this is the recipe that, after tasting it compelled Sprout, my straight female office mate to propose marriage to me twice.

Next was the Italian Sausage variety which I again taste tested on Sprout who told me it made her very confused.  

"This is not meat?" 

"It's meat but it's plant based."

The Italian Sausage has the same spiciness and mouth feel of the sausage I remember when I was an omnivore.  I can't wait to try it on a pizza!

Thursday morning, I sliced into the Celebration Loaf and sauteed it in a pan with a little olive oil which I will NOT do next time as it dried out when I warmed it up later.  If I'm making it to eat right away, I think it'd be a great way to cook it but otherwise I will rely on my microwave to heat individual slices.  

Celebration Roast with delicata squash on the side!
Voila!  Lunch!

I'm looking forward to trying their other products!  

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Benediction

At the end of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's speech on Friday night, she closed with what I referred to in my previous post as a benediction.  It truly brought me to tears.  I was mad at myself for not having the foresight to record it but was thrilled to find out that it's the dedication in her book, The Vegan Table.  

If we could only have the qualities of these animals, the world would be a better place.  I hope these words mean as much to you as they do to me.

My hope is that we can all navigate through this world with the grace and integrity of those who most need our protection.
May we have the sense of humor and liveliness of the goats, the maternal instincts of the hens, and the sassiness of the roosters.

May we have the faithfulness and commitment to family of geese and the adaptability and affability of the ducks.  May we have the intelligence, loyalty and affection of the pigs and the inquisitiveness, sensitivity and playfulness of the turkeys.

May we have the gentleness and strength of the cattle, the wisdom, serenity and humility of the donkeys. May we appreciate the need for community as do the sheep and choose our companions as carefully as do the rabbits.
May we learn from the animals what we need to become better people.  ~Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Mirthful Monday!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Field Trip! Albany Vegfest!

Dr. D. and I took a field trip this weekend to the Albany Vegfest.  After I found out Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was speaking, I knew I couldn't miss it. For those of you who read my blog post Why I Love Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, you know she's my hero and how much I admire and respect her work.  When I mentioned to Dr. D. that she would be at the Speaker Recognition Dinner the night before the Vegfest, he talked me into leaving a day early and staying over.

The dinner took place at the Century House in Latham and around 70 people attended.  The food was phenomenal!  All of it was vegan and all of it was delicious and creative.  Our friends, Sherry and Mike were there with their adorable girls who held me to my promise to kiss the chef if I saw him.
Picture taken by Meena Colbdorf
We sat with some very interesting people who provided us with great dinner discussions. I also got to meet Liz Rotundo whom I had "friended" on Facebook a couple of weeks earlier.  She was a very busy woman all weekend as one of the organizers of Vegfest and I was so impressed with how she pulled it all off.

Colleen was wonderful as expected and got laughs from the audience when she admitted how much she loved that her hair smelled like goat after spending all day at the Woodstock Animal Sanctuary.  Her words were engaging and motivating and her closing which was more like a benediction, brought me to tears.  I really wish I had recorded it.

When she was finished, I approached her to tell her what an influence she has been on me as a new vegan.  She held my hand for a long time before giving me a huge hug.  She is one of the most genuinely kind and friendly people I've ever met.

Me and my hero

One of the highlights of my weekend!

The next day we did a little shopping before heading to the Polish Community Center where the Vegfest was being held.  Our tablemates from the night before had highly recommended Honest Weight Food Co-Op so that was our first stop.

It reminded me of Greenstar in Ithaca but bigger and with higher prices.  I was thrilled, however to find the pre-made vegan pie crusts I'd been looking for.  I also found this selection of goodies, many gluten-free and many vegan:

And this book:  

Because nothing turns a vegan on like kale!

We don't have a Trader Joe's within 100 miles of Binghamton so a pilgrimage there was on my list.  My heart fluttered a little bit when Dr. D. announced it was his "new favorite store".  I just love this man!

My goal for this visit was to pick up some of their K-cups for myself as well as for a female soldier serving in Afghanistan.  It was on her wish list for herself and her fellow soldiers.  Trader Joe's K-cups are around 10 cents less per cup than any other brand and I think the coffee is superior to any others I've tried.  The Trader Joe's brand of vegan mozzarella was recommended to me by one of their crew members so I picked up some of that as well.  And mushrooms.  Lots of mushrooms.

Trunk full of goodies, we left for the Vegfest.  There was a line out the door when we got there and both of us remarked about how thankful we were for the unseasonably warm weather.  

Our first stop was the heated tent where Sherry F. Colb would be doing her presentation.  Sherry is the author of Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger? and a brilliant and charming speaker. I'm also honored to call her my friend. We thoroughly enjoyed her talk on how to answer the most common questions vegans are asked.  She collected questions from audience members which made the presentation interactive and entertaining.

After Sherry's speech, we were urged (okay, begged is a better word) by her young daughters to visit the table selling the amazing vegan desserts.  These desserts were outstanding by any standards and to know they were free of animal products made me feel like a kid at Christmas!

Dr. D. and I shared a tiramisu (far right).
Gorgeous, right?
We walked around scoping out the place and I was thrilled to have so many choices for lunch.  Despite all those options we decided on pizza.  I hadn't had pizza in three months!  We both got a slice and I thought I'd died and gone to cheesy, saucy, doughy heaven!  It was amazing!  In fact, it was so amazing we both got second pieces.

We stopped by our friend Amie Hamlin's table to say good morning.  Amie is the Executive Director for the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food which is something important to me as I still have two children in school.  Her table buzzed with activity for most of the day so it's obvious it's an important topic for many.  

The vendors were varied and ranged from animal rights groups to a soy candle vendor to booksellers where Dr. D. picked up a copy of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, MD.  Dr. D. had a mild heart attack a few years ago that resulted in two stents being placed.  His health has vastly improved since then but he is very curious about the good effects of a plant-based diet.  We walked around several times before heading back over to the tent to hear Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's presentation.

Colleen had this picture up during her presentation
and told the story of the rescue of Linus.
Colleen was brilliant as usual and Dr. D. listened intently. I watched him and wondered what was going through his head.  Was he regretting coming with me to the event?  Did he think all of this information was too radical and extreme?  I would get my answers later that day.

After Colleen's talk, we headed back inside to pick up a copy of her book, The Vegan Table and get it signed.  I now officially own all her books except for one.  I have instituted a new policy for myself; for every vegan cookbook I buy, I give away one of my non-vegan ones.  I'm one book away from an intervention from my loved ones.  However, this new book is the most special of all because of the inscription its author penned. 

Colleen signing books

Satisfied both in my heart and my belly, we hit the road back to Binghamton.  It was early so we decided to stop in Greene for a drink and to check out the menu at the newly renovated (and beautiful!) Sherwood Hotel.  We sat down with our cocktails and the menu.  I found a portabello entree I felt could be made vegan and told Dr. D. we could eat there if he wanted to as the entrees for him were plentiful.  

The next thing he said blew me away.

I've made the decision to eat vegan whenever we eat together. I can see how important this is to you and want to support you.

Colleen's message was very powerful and I think the health benefits alone are worth me making this change.

I left out quotation marks on purpose as I cannot remember exactly what he said but the message was clear and I am so happy he's made this decision.  It's a step toward better health and a step forward in this journey we're taking together.

Lots more pictures can be seen here.  Make plans to attend next year and I'll see you there!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Foodie Friday! Mushroom Stroganoff!

I have been on one heckuva mushroom kick lately!  First it was the Country Mushroom Soup featured in last week's Foodie Friday post and now it's Mushroom Stroganoff.

I'm really nuts about this dish and must make it once the craving hits.  To keep it vegan, I serve it over bowtie pasta as even No Yolks Egg Noodles still contain egg whites.  

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Mushroom Stroganoff

1 and 1/2 pounds mushrooms, any type, cut into 1/4" slices
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. beef flavored Better Than Bouillon (optional)
1 C. vegetable broth
2 (or more) Tbs. cognac
1 C. vegan sour cream
1 pound pasta of choice

In a 4-quart pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. 

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, cook mushrooms in small batches in a few teaspoons of olive oil.  Let mushrooms slightly brown and remove from pan; cook next batch adding oil a teaspoon at a time when needed.  Set aside. 

Add onions and salt to the pan and cook until translucent and beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Use another teaspoon of oil if the pan is too dry.  Cook the mushrooms for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Put pasta in boiling water.  Cook for time indicated on package. 

Add the vegetable broth, Better Than Bouillon (if using)  and cognac to the mushrooms.  Cook for 10 - 15 minutes until liquid has reduced and has thickened.   

Lower the heat on the mushroom mixture and stir in the sour cream.  Bring just to a simmer, stirring to heat through.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I'm a turkey mama!

It's official!

Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for me this year.  It's my third Thanksgiving not eating turkey but my first as a full-fledged vegan.  Now some may say I'm a bad vegan because I am doing the unthinkable.

As hostess of our Thanksgiving dinner this year, I made the decision to have a dead bird on my table.

The thought of it makes me a little ill and I'm thankful Dr. D. has agreed to cook the bird as I can't bear the thought of touching it.  However, I decided to go ahead with a traditional Thanksgiving for one reason.


I know most of my family would not attend my Thanksgiving feast unless a turkey is served.  This left me with two choices: not serve turkey and have my family go elsewhere (where a bird will lose its life anyway) or suck it up and serve a turkey so my family can enjoy each others' company.  Having my family in my home for the holiday will also ensure that the side dishes are all vegan; this would not happen if we went elsewhere.

There is no argument, it was a tough decision to make and not a very popular one with the vegan members of my family but I know in my heart it's the right thing to do.

I have already planned out the rest of the meal.  Many of the traditional Thanksgiving side dishes are naturally vegan and making those which are not naturally vegan into plant-based dishes will be fairly easy to pull off such as using Earth Balance in recipes calling for butter and making stuffing in a pan.  There are so many wonderful vegan side dishes that no one will feel they are sacrificing and I may even surprise some people at how amazing vegan food is!

Do I feel guilty?  You bet!  To alleviate some of my guilt, I adopted a turkey through Farm Sanctuary's Adopt a Turkey project.  I had a choice of turkeys to adopt and settled on this handsome fella I met when we visited Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen earlier this fall.

Turpentine Turkey

Isn't he sweet?  He's even "Facebook Famous" as my kids like to say.

For $30 I was able to make a donation to this outstanding organization and help them in their cause to rescue farm animals and care for them at one of their three locations.  I acknowledge it doesn't do anything to help the turkey who will be served in my home that day but it can help lots of others.  

So Turpentine will be part of our Thanksgiving this year but he won't be covered in gravy (or have bread shoved up his butt).  He'll be there in spirit to remind all of us that a turkey is someone and not something.  I know I'll be doing right by my family and doing my best for the animals.

As one of my favorite authors, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says:

"Being vegan is about doing the best we can in this imperfect world. It’s not about being perfect or pure. If we lose sight of that, if we treat veganism as the end rather than the means, then we’ll not only drive ourselves crazy, we’ll also forget what being vegan is all about."

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blog of the Week: Little Green Kettle

Kim Soju and her friend
I came across Kim Soju's blog, Little Green Kettle by accident this week while looking for an image of a vegan pizza.  It was a happy accident for sure as this blog is full of great recipes, ideas and thoughts.  She named Colleen Patrick-Goudreau as Rock Star #2 (Rock Star #1 was Alicia Silverstone) of her awesome vegan superstars series so I was thrilled to see we share the same love and admiration for Colleen.

Kim's voice comes through in her writing and the passion and energy she gives her topics appeals to all kinds of readers.

One of my favorite things about her blog are the tabs at the top which direct you to different categories.  Click the I Feel Like Reading tab and get book and resource recommendations.  Click the I Feel Like Watching tab to see what videos and movies are of interest to vegans or those curious about a vegan lifestyle.  Click the I Feel Like Smiling tab to get a whole buncha fun links to videos and pictures to make you laugh or just brighten your day.

You can find her Facebook page here.  Check her out and leave a little love in the comments section.  Tell her the Born Again Vegan sent you.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Why I Love Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

I have become a huge fan of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau since becoming vegan.  Okay, huge fan is an understatement.  You may want to call it a girl crush.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has a way of bringing information about veganism to many people in a kind, non-judgmental, caring way that is very rare.  She is the author of several books including The Vegan TableVegan's Daily Companion, and The Joy of Vegan Baking.  

She also wrote the book and then developed the online version of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge which makes changing to this new lifestyle so easy to understand.  It's the best $20 you'll ever spend!

I listen to Colleen's Food for Thought podcast every single day on my way in to work and on my way home.  Since I just recently discovered it, I am listening to old episodes that are still as relevant as the day they were recorded.  Her style has an energy that is contagious.

I will have the privilege of seeing Colleen at the Albany VegFest next weekend and feel like I'm about to meet a true celebrity.  Dr. D. and I will be attending the Speaker's Recognition dinner the night before and I hope to have at least a couple of minutes with her to tell her what an amazing impact she has had on my life as a new vegan.  I share with you now:

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Think Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is the 
Ultimate Rock Star of the Vegan World

#1  She's gorgeous.  Duh.

#2  She's a joyful vegan.

Part of Colleen's messagewear
available on her website.

#3  We both love pigs and not in a bacon-y kind of way.

Colleen with a pig

Me with a pig

#4  She says things like this:

#5  And this:

#6  She is incredibly well-read and frequently references famous authors like this in her podcasts:

Michel de Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne
In this episode, I’m thrilled to share with you a very special person named Michele de Montaigne, who lived from 1533 to 1592. He was a writer, philosopher, and inventor of the essay as a proper literary genre. In his aptly titled “Essays,” he shares his thoughts – while referencing historical figures, philosophical thinkers, and poets – in order to work out his thoughts about the way to world worked and our place in it.Significantly for our purposes, he was one of the early post-Classical thinkers who challenged some fundamental aspects of Western thought, particularly the idea that we’re superior to other animals. 

#7  She confesses to not being gluten-free but is "gluten-ful".

Mmmmm!  Vegan pizza!
Photo courtesy of this very cool blog!

#8  She loves cows and not in a prime ribby kind of way.

Colleen with a cow.

Me with a cow

#9  She's been referred to as The Vegan Martha Stewart.  I say this reluctantly because Martha is not exactly known for her compassion but I am very glad there is someone in the vegan world who is leading the way in elegant entertaining and gracious living.


Colleen.  Sorry.  No comparison.

And finally....

#10  She is teaching me that it's about progress, not perfection.  I have learned from her how to say things in a way that does not offend those with whom I am interacting.  Colleen is teaching me how to talk to hunters, omnivores, friends and family in a way that does not judge but compassionately and gently educates and informs and most of all, inspires.  She is teaching me to be a joyful vegan.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Foodie Friday! Country Mushroom Soup

Dr. D. made this delicious soup this week and it was just perfect for the chilly fall night.  Mushrooms are full of wonderful nutrients and taste amazing!  

This recipe is very simple with very few ingredients and steps.  For those of you fortunate enough to have a Trader Joe's nearby, their Everyday Seasoning is perfect for adding a little extra to this recipe.  Just grind a couple teaspoons into it before serving. Yum!

Country Mushroom Soup

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/3 C. brown rice
6 Cups vegetable stock
3 Tbls. Earth Balance
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed, sliced
1/4 C. plus 1 Tbs. dry sherry
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, combine onion, brown rice and stock.  Bring to a boil, then simmer 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt Earth Balance in a large saucepan.  Gently cook mushrooms about 10 minutes or until golden brown and most of the moisture has evaporated.

Add mushrooms to stock.  Stir in sherry and season with salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes.

Serves 6.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Culture of Violence: A Look at Earthlings and Slaughterhouse

I watched the movie Earthlings this weekend.  For those of you who aren't familiar with this powerful film narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, it documents the various ways animals are used by man and the suffering that occurs as a result.  From the euthanasia in animal shelters to the abuses in the meat industry and circuses this brilliant film is, at times, difficult to watch.  

I cried twice in the first twenty minutes and spent the rest of the time feeling sick to my stomach.  Days later, I still felt weepy and sad.  Yes, the images were gruesome but what made it even worse was the blatant cruelties shown by those who abuse animals.

A quote by Leo Tolstoy used in the film says, "As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields."  A culture of violence toward the most innocent of God's creatures can only lead to violence in other areas.

Violence begets violence.

I'm reading the book, Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail A. Eisnitz which ties in perfectly with Earthlings.  So much of what Eisnitz documents in her brilliant and brave book confirms what I witnessed among the slaughterhouse workers in the film.

The author interviewed employees from John Morrell, the meat company and among the men she interviewed were the "stickers".  A "sticker" is the man on the line who cuts the carotid arteries and jugular vein in the neck of the stunned animal.  It's a dangerous and bloody job especially if the worker before him on the line doesn't properly stun the animal which happens very frequently as the workers are told to turn down the power on the stunner so as not to bruise the meat.  This continues to happen despite employees reporting such dangerous situations to the USDA or OSHA.  

The job takes its toll on the workers.  One of the Morrell "stickers" confessed to hitting his wife and beating his kids when he'd come home from the plant.  Many of the employees had alcohol problems.  "They have to drink, they have no other way of dealing with killing live, kicking animals all day long."  The same man confessed, "some of [the employees] end up abusing their spouses because they can't get rid of the feelings." 

Violence begets violence.

In both Earthlings and Slaughterhouse, there is evidence of the most cruel and inhumane treatment of animals.  Animals who should be stunned or dead being submerged in boiling liquids while still alive some of them trying to swim out of the tank.  Animals who are still alive being shackled and hung.  One worker at Morrell describes it like this, "They beat [the animals] with pipes and stuff like that.  Or stick a big hook up their butt and drag them.  Or in their mouth.  And they're still alive."

In an interview with a man who worked in a horse slaughterhouse, Eisnitz records him saying, "A job like that, it's a job of cruelty. You don't have no conscience.  All you think about is you making your money, you doing your job."

When an animal, human and non-human alike, experiences pain and fear, its body releases large amounts of powerful hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.  I have no scientific evidence to back this up but have a hard time believing these hormones do not settle in the tissues of the animals which are then consumed by man; powerful hormones that stimulate a fight or flight response. Even if it's just on a spiritual level; this influence is evidenced everywhere.

No one can deny our culture has become more violent.  Acts of violence committed in cold blood make headlines every day and it seems to be easier to compartmentalize and desensitize ourselves to injustice whether it's on Wall Street or Main Street.  We turn our heads.

Violence begets violence.

What I saw in Earthlings was painful to watch.  I had to stop the video several times and walk away as the images were so startling and disturbing.  When I talked about this with Dr. D. later that night, he could clearly see I was upset and asked me why I put myself through such a thing.  This quote from actress and famed animal activist Gretchen Wyler said what I wasn't able to verbalize

"We must not refuse to see with our eyes what they must endure with their bodies."

I could not turn my head and I am changed forever.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Foodie Friday! Banana Bread

This recipe is perfect for a fall weekend.  There's nothing like the smell of banana bread baking to make a house smell like a home.  Not only is this recipe vegan, it has no added fat.  I take spotted or brown bananas and throw them right in the freezer, skin and all.  The skin is the best protection against freezer burn.  They look pretty disgusting when you take them out but it saves you from using a freezer bag.    

I sometimes add 1/4 tsp. almond extract and 1/2 cup of dried cherries or other dried fruit to the batter for a change of pace.

This great recipe adapted from one in The Happy Herbivore Cookbook.

Banana Bread

1/4 c. non-dairy milk
1/4 tsp. lemon juice
4-5 spotted or browning bananas
1/2 C. dark brown sugar
1/2 C. raw sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 C. whole wheat flour (I've used white flour with good results)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. pure maple syrup

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or spray a standard 8-inch loaf pan and set aside.
  • Whisk the milk and lemon juice together until bubbly and set aside.
  • Cream bananas with sugars using a hand mixer until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk spices, flour, baking soda, and baking powder together.
  • Add milk-lemon juice, and banana mixture as well as all remaining ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
  • Pour into loaf pan, using a spatula to evenly distribute and smooth out the top.
  • Make a tent over the pan with a large piece of foil.
  • Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 12 servings.

Spread a little Earth Balance on top of that warm goodness and enjoy!!