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!