To nourish your mind as well as your body

Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.

-Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Hello, friends! So, here's the deal. I am going to Antarctica for the next several weeks and so will not be posting any new recipes in the meanwhile (I have been absent since October due to a schedule of shooting, rehearsing, and performing that was wonderfully all-encompassing). However, should I have internet access while on my travels, I will be posting pictures and notes from the deep, deep South. :)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Saturnalia, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy New Years! I wish everyone from every faith and every belief a wonderful winter season and a joyous beginning to their new calendar year. :) Hugs!

Go on! Have a peace!

PS If you joined me during the year this year, feel free to browse back through my posts from last holiday season, where I wrote some articles on the holiday traditions of various faiths accompanied by some tasty holiday treats!

Quote for December

Looking deeply at any one thing, we see the whole cosmos.
-Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Quote for November

The world of peace and joy is at our fingertips. We only need to touch it.
-Thich Nhat Hahn

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween House Tournament and the Lucky Wizard's Pot Luck Feast

My roommate took a little trip earlier this year to a place called Hogsmeade, relocated from the UK to Orlando, Florida so the wizards stateside could take a real-life gander at the world of Hogwarts. When she returned, she brought with her two very special items: a wand for her and a wand for me. Thus, was our fall obsession born. It started as a Halloween costume (she, a Gryffindor student and I, a Ravenclaw), but as our ideas progressed, so did our plans. And the Halloween House Tournament was born.

The Tournament, which took place on October 29th, involved sorting our guests into their respective Houses, a series of games and activities in which our guests could earn House points, and - of course - the Lucky Wizard's Pot Luck Feast, hosted by representatives from Honeyduke's and The Leaky Cauldron.

Provided by the Prefects (that was us) was a wide selection of sweets and savories that delighted both the eyes and the taste buds. There was a Triumphantly Tasty Vegetarian Lasagna for the main course, accompanied by an offering of Honeyduke's Delectable Desserts (including Quidditch Sticks, Transfigured Beasties, Licorice Wands, Garlic Pumpkin Seeds, Cauldron Cakes, and Pumpkin Pasties).

Triumphantly Tasty Vegetarian Lasagna
(serves 10, or 20 grazing servings)

8 oz whole wheat lasagna noodles (9 noodles)
1 tsp salt, divided
2 cups low fat ricotta cheese
2 cups part skim shredded mozzarella
2 eggplants
10 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 lb baby spinach, chopped
1 28 ounce can crushed plum tomatoes
1 large jar marinara sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup basil, chopped fine
olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat a large baking dish (9x13) with olive oil spray. Coat two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and 1/2 tsp salt and cook until they're not quite completely tender. There should still be a little stiffness to the noodles when you take them off heat. Drain the noodles, fill the pot with cold water, and put the noodles back in. Set aside.
Slice an eggplant in pinky width slices, lay the slices out on the cookie sheets, spray them with olive oil, sprinkle salt over the slices, and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Combine crushed tomatoes and marinara in a large bowl, mash with a potato masher until the mixture is combined, but still chunky. Add basil and 1/2 tsp salt and stir. Set aside.
Coat a large, deep skillet with olive oil spray and turn the burner onto medium high heat. Add 1/3 cup water for each bag of spinach and heat until the spinach is pleasantly shriveled. Add the mushrooms, and continue heating until the mushrooms have shrunk and softened. Set heat to low.
Now, spread a thin layer of sauce along the bottom of the baking dish. Take three cool noodles and lay them side by side along the bottom of the bottom of the baking dish. Spread a layer of ricotta along each noodle. Lay 1/3 of roasted, sliced eggplant over the noodles. Spoon sauce over eggplant. Spoon 1/3 of spinach/mushroom mixture over the sauce and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle 1/3 of mozzarella cheese over the layer. Lay out another layer: 3 noodles, ricotta, 1/3 eggplant, 1/3 sauce, 1/3 spinach/mushroom mix, 1/3 mozzarella. And the last layer: 3 noodles, ricotta, last third eggplant, last third sauce, last third spinach/mushroom, last third mozzarella.
Bake on top rack of the oven for 1 hour. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Pasties
(makes 35 pasties)

1 pie pumpkin, baked and mashed
2 eggs worth of egg whites, beaten to a froth
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
12 fl oz evaporated milk
1 8 oz roll Athens Phyllo
Earth Balance butter substitute
cinnamon-sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a small casserole dish with baking spray. Prepare 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Cut the pie pumpkin in half, removing stem. Scoop out seeds and save them for later. Scoop out strings and toss them. Put the two halves of the sliced pumpkin on the cookie sheet and bake for 1.5 hours.
Remove from oven and cool for at least 20 minutes. Scoop out the meat of the pumpkin and put it into a food processor (or put it in a bowl and use a fork or a potato masher on it until smooth.
Set oven to 425 F.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg whites with a fork until frothy. Add sugar, salt, and all spices. Stir to combine fully. Add evaporated milk. Stir to combine. Pour into the prepared casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and bake for 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.

When the filling is cool, take out 1 roll of phyllo dough. Take two large spoonfuls of Earth Balance and put them into a microwave safe bowl; heat for 1 minute til melted.
Take a paper towel, wet it, wring it out, and then unroll the phyllo dough and lay the damp paper towel over the sheets (this will keep it from drying out on you).
Carefully separate a few sheets from the pile and lay them on top of the damp paper towel. Cut the sheets into 5 inch squares. Brush one 5 inch square with the melted butter using a pastry brush (brush carefully, lightly, from the center out and then dab the edges). Layer another square on top of it and repeat the buttering process. You will want 4 sheets layered. Butter the last sheet, then scoop 1 tbsp of the pumpkin filling into the center of the square. Roll from the top down over the scoop, then fold the sides in, place folded-side down on the cookie sheet. Brush a little melted butter over the top of the finished pastie, sprinkle a teensy bit of cinnamon-sugar over the top.
When you finish 1 cookie sheet, bake for 15 minutes at 350 F.
You should finish the roll of dough at the same time as you finish the filling with no leftovers. Enjoy!!

Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans were a combination of Jelly Bellys and Jelly Belly's "Weird and Wacky Flavor Box" (including the flavors: pencil shavings, mulch, and baby wipes).

Cauldron cakes in the books were referenced as chocolate cakes with a "yellowish filling". My answer to this? Betty Crocker's Sugar-Free Extra Moist Devils Food Cake Mix, made as directed. Next, we cut out a small circle in the center of each cake and filled it with JELLO Sugar Free Fat Free Vanilla pudding. 
Replace the removed circle of cake, ice over the top to make a uniform surface, and decorate. :) 
Easy peasy.

Our Honeyduke's Treat Table consisted of - from left to right - Licorice Wands (red vines), Transfigured Beasties (gummy worms and bugs), Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans (mentioned above), Special Wizard's Treat Mix (wasabi peas, raw almonds, raisins, and cranberries), and Quidditch Sticks (crushed almond pocky sticks). 
This is 20 servings of our Leaky Cauldron inspired Home-Brewed Butterbeer. Ingredients for 20 servings: 2.5 cups almond milk, 2.5 cups butterscotch schnapps, 20 tbsp light smart butter, 15 cups of cream soda. We placed all ingredients in a massive pot on the stove and heated until the butter was all melted and then a little longer, until a level of foam began to form on top. Then the contents were ladled through a funnel into these containers until we were ready to serve. It was a big hit. :)
Our Potions Lab consisted of a set of test tubes and some optional "brewing potions" that our guests could use to concoct their own mixtures. We used a variety of different colored smart waters as well as some other ingredients with a teensy bit of food coloring in them. 

These potions were based on potions found in the Harry Potter books.
The actual "potions" in the bottles were a well-contrived blend of water and food coloring.
This Transfiguration Board was made from a black foam board, paint, and silver markers. Oh, and my roommates incredible artistic skills. The imagery was taken from a book I have on alchemy and mysticism, as well as latin translation sites, and spell names from the HP books.
We took turns drawing on balloons to make some flying owls and ghosts for our guests to interact with. 
The Gray Lady
The Bloody Baron

The Fat Friar

The Tournament Game:

Janet and I wrote (and she designed) these awesome "spell" cards,
which our guests could use to cast spells on each other to earn
House Points! Look how pretty they are!

The Sorting:
Each of our guests underwent a Sorting, completed by donning the Sorting Hat I made, drawing their House Badge from the cauldron, and having their House name crowed by all assembled.

A good time was had by all! And - if you're wondering - the winners of the Halloween House Tournament? 
Yep. They went home with shiny new Golden Snitches. :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

VAM Questionnaire: Candace

Candace Bollinger is a vegan from Brooklyn, NY. She is a self-professed cat lady, a radical feminist, an anarchist, a head-over-heels-in-love partner to the most amazing person ever, an aunt to six awesome little boys, a sister to four, a daughter, an activist, a reader, a survivor and a vegan (sometimes a raw one). She works retail in New York and is currently studying to become an EMT. In unpaid work, she does workshops for political activists on emotional wellness and self care in the social justice sphere.


Q When did you become a vegan? 
A 6 years ago.
Q Why did you become a vegan? 
A I had been a vegetarian for a very long time (since age 11) and gone back and forth from vegetarian to vegan. One day I decided I just needed to commit, for the animals, for my health, and for the environment.
Q What is the most common misunderstanding you face about being vegan? 
A HOW DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN!??!??!? It's nonsense. I get plenty of protein from beans, grains, and nuts.
Q What is your strategy for maintaining your vegan diet? 
A At this point, it's very natural to me. However, in the beginning, I admit to having to force myself to watch videos showing the horrors of the dairy industry, every time I thought "mmmmm, I want pizza..."
Q What is your favorite meal? 
A The Picnic Plate from Angelica Kitchen in NYC. It has raw marinated kale, a curried cashew pate, kimchee, fermented ruby kraut and marinated tempeh.
Q What is your favorite dish to prepare? 
A Red Lentil Curry. It has onions, garlic, the lentils, red peppers, spinach, tomatoes, tumeric, curry, garam masala, cinnamon, cashews and apples in it. It's out of this world.
Q What is your favorite recipe? 
A Auntie Bonnie's Wacky Cake from the Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer vegan cookbook series. Hands down, the best vegan chocolate cake ever.
Q What is your favorite cookbook? 
A Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.
Q What is your favorite restaurant? 
A Angelica Kitchen in NYC.
Q Which culinary tools do you use most often in the kitchen? 
A A good knife, a food processor, and my dehydrator.
Q Any advice/thoughts you'd share with people who are considering becoming vegan? 
A The best thing about it will be the difference that you feel after such a short period of time. Your energy levels skyrocket, your body feels clean; it's like a whole new world. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

VAM Questionnaire: Carolyn

My aunt, Carolyn Doolittle, is a recently pledged vegan in Austin, TX. She is a talented CPA/MBA, a Mega Church Finance Director, and a superbly awesome aunt. She enjoys most outdoor activities, but mainly hiking. She loves animals and nature.


Q When did you become a vegan? 
A I began limiting meat (no pork, shellfish, organ meats) about 15 years ago.  I committed to living vegan on May 9, 2010.

Q Why did you become a vegan? 
A Since I am approaching the half century mark, I've done some soul searching about what I have done with my life and how I want to live the rest of my days on this earth.  I thought about what I truly value and how my daily life choices reflect those values. I really love animals and I read a few books on the topic of Veganism.  The more I read and learned the more disgusted I became with how the food industry abuses, mutilates and disgraces animals, all for greed. I don't believe God ever intended for us to disrespect his creatures this way. I can live a very healthy and happy lifestyle with an abundance of alternative food, clothing, cosmetic and household product choices that do not require an animal's life to be taken or made miserable.  There are other reasons too, but I'll stop here for now.

Q Now I'm curious. What other reasons?
A Watch the documentary Food, Inc. some time. Also, check out this resource from the Christian Vegetarian Association.

Q What is the most common misunderstanding you face about being vegan?  
A Protein, Calcium and B vitamins.  People always want to know how I get enough of these nutrients.  I ask them how elephants, buffaloes, cows and horses and the like get their protein.  These are huge, strong animals and if in a natural environment, all they eat is vegetation.  

Q What is your strategy for maintaining a vegan diet?  
A Variety.  I have a few favorite dishes, but I like to try new recipes to keep it interesting.  

Q What is your favorite vegan meal?  
A Right now, I love a local Austin wrap by Tom's Tabooley.  My favorites are the Thai Wrap (w/ Tofu or Falafel )- Marinated tofu or 3 falafels, zesty thai noodles with lettuce, cabbage, carrots, onions, taratoor and thai peppers. I pick these up at Whole Foods at least every other week.  

Q What's taratoor?
A  It's a sesame sauce made with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt & water.  

Q Favorite vegan dish to prepare?  
A It's hard to pin down a favorite.  I like so many.

Q All right. What about the vegan dish you've had the most fun preparing?
A Cookies & Creme cupcakes using chocolate Newman-O's cookies.  And since I made these, I have been addicted to Newman-O's - the chocolate and the ginger-o's are good!  I got this recipe from "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.  

Q Favorite vegan recipe?  
A I recently made some really good carrot raisin muffins.  These were really good and froze well.  I'll be making these again.  

Q Favorite vegan cookbook? 
A I'll give you two.  Vegan With A Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz; and Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.

Q Favorite vegan restaurant? 
A A vegetarian/vegan friendly place I like is Panera Bread.  Lots of good choices and they are very accommodating.  Starbucks too - most drinks with Soy milk are vegan.

Q Are there any local, non-chain restaurants you'd like to recommend for their vegan cuisine?
A I haven't been to a 100% vegan restaurant.  Just vegan friendly ones that serve non-vegan too.  One that comes close that I like is called The Steeping Room (in Austin, TX). It's awesome.

Q Which culinary tools do you use most often in the kitchen?  
A VitaMix, food processor, Magic bullet, Kitchen Aid mixer.

Q Any advice/thoughts you'd share with people who are considering becoming vegan?   
A Educate yourself a little on how to get a good balance of nutrients so you will stay healthy.  You can be a vegetarian or vegan living on junk food, but it's not a good idea.  Mix it up with a variety of foods so you never get bored or feel deprived. And be prepared if you are dining with others in a place with limited vegetarian or vegan choices.  Check the menu ahead of time online if you can, and bring a Lara Bar or something else with you if all you can order is a salad. Here's a book recommendation for anyone considering going vegan.  It's an easy read and was informative and entertaining. I loved it - Vegan Freak: Being Vegan In A Non-Vegan World, by Bob Torres and Jenna Torres.

I saw that World Go Vegan Week is Oct 24-31.  I'll have to think of something to do that week.  There are alot of suggestions here. 

Crazy Awesome Vegan Mac and Cheese

"What?!", you ask. "Isn't cheese inherently non-vegan?" Yes. Yes, it is. But there are some fabulous substitutes out there (like the ones I use in the recipe below). Now, I have had many vegan mac and cheeses, but none of them have ever included any of these awesome substitutes and I'm not entirely sure why that is.

Note: This is not one of my super quick recipes. It is also rather messy to make. However, clean up is still super fast and it will feed you for a LONG time. :)

Crazy Awesome Vegan Mac and Cheese
(makes a LOT. I mean, enough to feed five people for several days.)

18 cups of water
32 oz elbow macaroni (I use Tinkyada Pasta Joy Brown Rice Elbow Pasta with Bran)
3 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tbsp honey dijon mustard
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 cup onion, diced
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp arrowroot
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups shredded vegan cheese (I use 3/4 cup soy kaas mild cheddar and a .41 lb block of Daiyo cheese), plus more for topping (optional)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 can sweet peas
6 oz extra firm tofu, cut into 1" cubes

This is what your shredded Daiyo and Soy Kaas will look like. See. Nothing to be scared of. :)

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Boil 18 cups of water in a giant pot. Pour 32 oz of pasta in and cook on medium high for 3 minutes. Then turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes.


In a big sauce pan, warm olive oil, almond milk, mustard, and flour over medium low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring until there are no lumps.

Add garlic and onions and 1 tbsp arrowroot. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.

Add shredded cheese and stir for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add salt and pepper. Stir some more. I let it sit for a few minutes after this and came back and stirred and then repeated until the consistency was nice and cheesy and goopy (took about 15 minutes including the time I left it to sit while I strained my cooked pasta, etc).

By now, your pasta should be done cooking, so remove it from heat, strain it through a colander, rinse with cold water, and replace in the big pot you cooked it in. Add the peas and tofu and stir to combine well. Pour in the yummy cheese sauce and use a big spoon to really stir it all together.

Next, pour the whole pot full into your big casserole dish and sprinkle with more shredded vegan cheese or breadcrumbs or almond meal or flaxseed meal or... really anything you like. :) Bake in the oven for ~30 minutes. Remove, let cool for about 5-10 minutes, and then serve. Or put in your fridge and serve the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that. :)

Go on! Have a peace!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

VAM Interview: Perry

Perry Freeze is a native Oregonian living in LA, who has been working as a filmmaker since 1999. He's the only person I know who drives a biodiesel car, and is a self-proclaimed "eco-geek" (which means he's very interested in technology and sustainability). He is also the only person I know who can make Ethiopian food from scratch - incredible, addictive Ethiopian food. Mmm. Hugs, Perry.


Q When did you become a vegetarian?
A I became a vegetarian three days before Thanksgiving in 1999, which also happened to be three months after I moved out on my own for the first time.

Q Were you thinking about going vegetarian before that?
A No, actually. It was really all of a sudden.

Q Was there some significance to it coming about right before Thanksgiving?
A No. That was just a mistake. I was living in a dorm and food was being provided, but there was a different selection of things than there had been back at home and there was also an emphasis on healthy eating and green living.

It was the first time I had ever really been responsible for my own meals. I had never had to plan a meal before that time. I ate what was available; I had had other things on my mind besides food when I was growing up. Like girls.

But when I was growing up, when things like chicken were being prepared at my house, the bones always freaked me out. The closest I got to touching meat was making hamburger patties and that was like playing with play dough. You didn't think about where it came from. I ate chicken nuggets and pepperoni pizza and I didn't think of them as animal products; just food. Every once in a while, my family would make a big tray of chicken and I would observe it, but... It was this white meat with tendons and muscles and bones sticking out of it... I watched my family tearing it apart with their teeth or peeling the skin off, but I saw it as a dead animal, not something I would ever want to put in my mouth. The concept of being a vegetarian wasn't in me at that time. I had always been a choosy eater, but I hadn't really connected all of the dots for myself.

So I didn't have a lot of interest in carcasses or foods I associated with being dead things, but I was eating plenty of meat, even - I think - making fun of my vegetarian friends. I knew a lot of vegetarians; I grew up in Oregon. There were a lot of cool, hippy families out there. But the concept that I could decide not to eat meat didn't enter my head. With regards to my friends who were vegetarians, I thought "They're not eating pizza anymore. They can't go out to restaurants."

I can pretty much drill it down to when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to eat at the cafeteria three days before that first Thanksgiving away from home. Inside, they had meat on the bone - hot dishes like chicken breast, etc - and a salad bar. Outside, they had grilled stuff like hamburgers. And I had this thought: that I was 100% okay with eating a hamburger but that I didn't want to eat the chicken because it was a dead animal. And then I thought, "What is a hamburger?" A hamburger was a cow that had been killed and then processed. If I didn't feel okay with eating a dead chicken because it was a carcass, why would I feel okay about eating a dead cow? I realized that I had been conning myself.

It's hard for me to say I don't like animal cruelty, because that's a go-to answer for a lot of vegetarians. I'm a vegetarian because I couldn't approach a living animal and turn it into food. I would rather let the animal live and eat a salad. If I couldn't take part in the act of making an animal into my food, then I couldn't take part in the result either.

So that Thanksgiving, in 1999, my friend invited me to his house for Thanksgiving. And I had just decided I was a vegetarian, so I asked if that would still be okay if I went. His mom was a surfer mom and made this really awesome vegetarian friendly meal, so I had a great experience.

Q What's the most common misunderstanding you face about being a vegetarian?
A Um... it's pretty commonly spread. Some people think vegetarian means you don't eat any animal by-products (i.e. milk, eggs, etc). People will ask how I get my protein; they seem to think that eating meat is the only way you get protein.

Q What is our strategy for maintaining a vegetarian diet?
A Fall in love with a good cook.
Also, trying and becoming curious about vegetarian cultures. Experimenting with your food. Learning to cook.
It was such a deeply personal decision for me; I would rather not eat than eat meat at a barbecue.
Be aware of meal plans. It's so easy for meat eaters to be focused on meat, they overlook how tasty their vegetables can be. Don't get hung up on not having meat. Think about other possibilities.

Q What is your favorite meal?
A Toast. [grin] Okay. The reason toast is so cool is this: you have this product called 'bread' and you don't do much to it. You heat it. And then it becomes something else - something with a different name. Toast. And it has a special tool that only exists to help transition bread into toast.

[Gloria intercut: I totally love that we became vegetarians separately. One of my favorite moments with us was when we first started seeing each other, I made fettucini alfredo with red, yellow, and green peppers. And he was blown away-
Perry: I don't know that I had had any bell peppers before that...
Gloria: -that vegetarian food could been sweet and flavorful and mixed in with things. Many of our first years together were like that.]

The thing about having a "favorite" is that you don't want to have the same thing every day. I like so many different kinds of foods. I really like foods from other cultures that basically still baffle me. That I just wouldn't know how to begin to make. Like Indian food is so rick and has so many different flavors... if American food looked like Indian food, it would be one flavor and that flavor would be 'cat food' because that's kind of what it looks like.

Q What is your favorite dish to prepare?
A It takes me a long time to decide what to cook some times and then I end up wandering around the grocery store and just picking things out.
I learned to cook Ethiopian food and I like to prepare those because they're complex stews and they have a a lot of steps and might take hours or days to make. And because now I sort of own it - it's like what I do. And I have to make sure it's just right because I introduce people to it by cooking it, so they're deciding if they like Ethiopian cuisine based on my preparation.

Q What is your favorite recipe?
A Salads to me really opened up when I became a vegetarian. Before, I thought of a salad as iceberg lettuce with a box of year old croutons and a bucket of ranch dressing. Like if it was cereal, the milk would be the ranch and the lettuce would be the cereal. I discovered that salad is a very general term for lots of kinds of foods. Explore different kinds of salads; make them with couscous or add fruit. Adding fruit to salad kind of blew my mind. I think everyone should try salads with fruit in them; they're really interesting.

Q What is your favorite cookbook?
A Vegetarian, by consultant editor Nicola Graimes.

Q What is your favorite restaurant?
A Native Foods. 
Real Food Daily. A lot of people like that place.
Those are hardcore vegetarian places, but there are lots of places you can get great food that is vegetarian.

Q What culinary tools do you use most in your kitchen?
A Plate. Toaster. Butter knife. Coffee cup. [laugh] I just do it all by hand. I use a knife, cutting board, and a pot of hot water.

Q Do you have any advice or thoughts you'd share with someone considering becoming a vegetarian?
A I would really have to know why they were becoming a vegetarian. I'd say 'see if you can make it a year'. And be aware and deal with immediately anything you think you might have a craving for. I've heard so many failure stories because people see the one thing they love that has meat in it and then suddenly start eating meat every meal again. Whatever your reason for becoming vegetarian - being healthy, just for a change, animal cruelty, global warming - you need to think about that reason and really connect it to that food you think you're not going to be able to give up.
Vegetarian isn't a genre of food. It's a lifestyle. When I see meat now, it's just a carcass. It doesn't even register to me as food. When we go to the store, we never go to the meat section because it's like the kitty litter section. I don't have a cat, so why would I go there?
I'd much rather have all the things I've gained from being vegetarian than anything I lost from the time I ate meat. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

VAM Questionnaire: Alison

Alison is a vegan artist in Seattle, Washington. She's incredibly talented, sweet, and one of my very favorite people. If you're interested in seeing some of her fabulous work, you can see it here. She has generously offered to answer some questions here about her life as a vegan. 


Q When did you become a vegan?
A About 8 years ago.
Q Why did you become a vegan?
A I had been vegetarian for a few years, and a close friend had recently become vegan herself, she gave me this cookzine, Soy Not Oi. It was written by a collective called the Hippie Core Crew, a group of punk rock kids who compiled some recipes they wrote themselves, and some they had liberated from other sources. The kids who created this zine also wrote stories about why they had become vegan, the whole thing really moved me. As a result, I decided to become vegan.
Q What were some of the things you read that moved you about the Hippie Core Group? 
A Wow, it has been so long, I am not sure I even remember. I think it was along the lines of animal freedom and how even using animal products is oppression. I didn't want to contribute to another animals oppression if I could help it. Also, they were just really personal essays, being vegan to these people was a very personal thing that I don't think I felt in my vegetarianism.
Q What is the most common misunderstanding you face about being vegan?
A That vegans don't eat anything. Or that eating anything vegan is healthy just because its vegan. I have certainly found that vegans tend to eat a lot healthier than most, but you can still eat crap if you're vegan!
Q What is your strategy for maintaining a vegan diet?
A Eating as healthy as possible and trying to keep a well rounded, balanced diet. Keeping up on your vitamins, especially b-12, iron, and calcium, although these are important for any diet. 
I should also note that I am not 100% vegan anymore since my cholesterol is unhealthily low(cholesterol is only in animal products).
Q What do you eat that is not 100% vegan? Was it hard to add this back into your diet?
A About a year ago i started eating eggs because my doctor told me that my cholesterol levels were too low, so I needed to somehow incorporate some animal product in order to stay healthy (plants do not contain cholesterol). About 4 months ago i noticed they were making me sick, so I stopped, and have since started eating chicken occasionally, both out of a fear that I am not getting enough protein (since I can't eat wheat gluten or soy anymore)and cholesterol (although there is probably not much in chicken). I may need to reevaluate this and probably think about trying to incorporate cheese or something higher in cholesterol into my diet instead.
This decision was definitely a hard one for me, one that I grappled with for months, but out of need, I chose to eat only happy chicken eggs that had been grown on a farm not far from my house. Now I am only eating, happy free range chicken from my local coop. Which, although isn't ideal is still something I am working on, and still don't feel completely comfortable with, but when I really think about it, my health is top priority.
Q What is your favorite vegan meal?
A Traditional Phad Thai with veggies and tofu (without the fish sauce and egg of course)
Mango with coconut milk
Hot tea
Q What is your favorite dish to prepare?
A Chickpea Miso Soup with stir fried veggies and rice noodles
Q What is your favorite vegan recipe?
A Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe in Soy Not Oi)
Q What is your favorite vegan cookbook?
A The Real Food Daily
Whole Life Nutrition Handbook
Q What is your favorite vegan restaurant?
A Chaco Canyon Cafe (vegan with a lot of raw dishes!) in Seattle, WA.
Q Which culinary tools do you use most often in the kitchen?
A Chefs knife, cast iron frying pan, blender/food processor.
Q Any advice/thoughts you'd share with people who are considering becoming vegan/vegetarian?
A Do it for the right reasons, not because your friends are doing it, but because you really believe in it. Be considerate of friends who are carnivores, and don't try to force your beliefs on them or make them feel bad because they eat animal products, you may alienate your friends as a result. Be patient with people who don't share your diet. Make sure to stay on top of what you are eating, it can be challenging to eat healthy most of the time. is a good way to keep track of things and get a general idea of the amount of vitamins/protein/etc. you are getting.

VAM Interview: Gloria

Gloria Lamb is an art director for variety television and live events. She spent her formative years in upstate New York and has lived in Los Angeles for the last ten years. An accomplished artist, she also enjoys fire-spinning and makes fabulous tamales. She's generous with her time and talents and is, simply, 'glamborous'.


Q When did you become a vegetarian?
A I became a vegetarian the week I turned thirteen, but technically I gave up poultry for the year before that. Not intentionally. I just looked back and noticed 'hey, I haven't been eating poultry for the last year.' Every meal at home I was responsible for helping with and many I was just responsible for, so it wasn't hard to be in control of what I ate. When I decided I was going to be vegetarian - when I was thirteen - I told my mother and she laughed at me and told me I wouldn't last a week. She made me go to the library and do research on it and had me go to the doctor to make sure I would get enough nutrients for the time I stayed with it.

Q Do you think she told you that so that you would stick with it.
A No. But it's one of those things... if you tell a thirteen year old they can't do something, you should expect they're going to do their best to prove you wrong.
She also told me that if I was going to do it, that I had to be responsible for telling her what I was going to need and what she needed to get for me [at the grocery store]. She wasn't going to figure it out for me.

Q When you cooked for other people after that, were you cooking meat.
A I don't remember, but I'm pretty sure that I was. Then, over time, I was finally like, 'No. I can't do this anymore.' So I stopped.

Q Why did you become a vegetarian?
A I would say that first I have to talk about how it even became something acceptable. In upstate New York, where I lived then, it was pretty much unheard of for people to be vegetarian. When I was eleven, my cousin came to visit us from Arizona and he was a vegetarian. And that was when the seed was planted, I think; the inception, you might say.
Also, I had a friend in Girl Scouts with me [from age 11-15] and she was a vegetarian and her food always looked amazing. It was more colorful than mine and it smelled better and I always wanted what was on her plate and so that was the second influence, I think.
And the third, well... In science class in 8th grade - Earth Sciences - we had someone come and speak to us - a guest speaker - who had worked in the Amazon and she talked to us about how they were cutting down the rainforests to raise cattle. And the bigger ideas were about climate change and how that was affecting global warming, but that really struck me. I mean, animal cruelty, yes, but that we were cutting down trees and hurting the environment so that we could get more meat...
A lot of people become vegetarian because they hate the taste of meat, but - you know - I liked my steak rare, I loved pork chops, I'd eaten alligator. I liked the taste of meat. I just didn't want it when I thought about what that meant.

Q Have you had meat since you became a vegetarian?
A Definitely, yes. Not intentionally.
There were a lot of traditional meals in my household that included meat. Like my mother would always put bacon in her beans and I felt like it would be inconsiderate if I didn't eat it. And she started cutting the bacon into bigger pieces so I could find them and pick them out, but after a while, I just couldn't do that anymore either.
Also, I have always been a little anemic, so my doctor told me I could either take iron supplements or eat meat. When I was younger, I thought iron supplements were nasty - they tasted awful - so for five years I would eat tuna from a can once a month [to keep my iron levels up]. Because, at that point, canned tuna didn't seem like an animal to me anymore. It was just processed stuff in a can. But then there reached a point where that wasn't cool anymore, so I stopped. I took the iron supplements for a while, but I hate taking iron supplements. Then I found out that beets could actually give me all the iron I needed. I didn't like those before, but I started learning to like them. Now I think they're great.

Q What other veggies can people eat to get iron?
A Spinach. Asparagus. Broccoli. Green vegetables in general. Not so much beans, but leafy greens. I think that's something that people don't totally know. They're always asking, "Where are you going to get your iron or your protein?" And I say, "Those things are in everything!"

Q What is the most common misunderstanding/misconception you face about being a vegetarian?
A I think it's going to vary based on the vegetarian. And that's part of the problem. There are a lot of different kinds of vegetarians and there are a lot of people who are really defensive about their meat-eating. They think I'm going to be mad at them for eating meat and I'm not. I think, maybe, they aren't totally aware of what they're putting in their bodies, but some people just don't want to know or want to think about it and I can respect that.
Also, like I said before, people wondering where I get my protein from. The amount of protein we need is actually a lot less than the average American eats.

Q Well, the amount of everything we need is less than the average American eats...
A Yeah. Oh, and something else, there's obviously other reasons to be a vegetarian than "I don't like meat." Some people are totally torn about animal cruelty and climate change. And there's also this lack of understanding about eating false meats. They say, "Why do you eat fake meat if you don't like real meat?" But, like I said before, I liked meat. Except for poultry, which I noticed I just wasn't eating. I think poultry is boring. 
But veggie burgers and BOCA burgers... those didn't exist when I first became a vegetarian. Not the way they exist now. At that time, the closest you got to a veggie burger was a portobello mushroom on a bun. I remember the first time I had a BOCA burger, I had to ask the waiter if he'd brought me a hamburger. Then I asked the manager and the chef. I told them, "I'm sorry, I haven't had this before. I haven't had meat in a decade. But are you sure?"

Q What is your strategy for maintaining a vegetarian diet.
A I enjoy cooking. And that's, I think, the best thing a vegetarian can do - enjoy cooking. 
You're never going to be totally satisfied eating out. When I go to a restaurant and I'm ordering soup, I ask what stock they use - usually waiters don't know and will have to check. And spanish rice. Neither of those are usually vegetarian in a restaurant. I'm usually overwhelmed when I go to a restaurant where I can eat everything, because I'm used to having it narrowed down for me to about three to five items. 
It's funny. When I look at a menu, I look at it like a list of ingredients, not a list of items. You might look at a menu and see a steak dinner with a side of spinach, but there's no spinach anywhere else on the menu. So I'll ask for spinach. Most of the time, they'll work with you. 
You can't find anything to eat a seafood restaurant or a barbecue restaurant or most cajun places. Steakhouses, on the other hand, are actually great for vegetarians as long as you don't mind sitting around a bunch of people eating huge mounds of meat. Steakhouses have awesome vegetable side dishes that most meat-eaters overlook because they're so focused on their meat. You have to make sure they aren't cooked with pork or something, but you can usually find a lot of variety.
I actually worked at a steakhouse in high school. And I got really good at recommending steaks. I would listen to other people enough that I could really discuss it without sounding canned. I knew I would make more money at a steakhouse than I would at a diner or something and that was more important at the time. 

Q You didn't find selling meat went against your ideals of being a vegetarian?
A Of course I did. But I was also sixteen and I had to get out of the house. Working there made me more than I would have made babysitting. And there was a smoking section where I served businessmen while they drank and smoked - and there I was this cute little sixteen year old. I made some pretty great tips. 

Q What's your favorite dish to prepare?
A That's hard. I love food. I guess, usually anything I've liked, recreated, and made better. I love making vegetarian mexican food. I use lots of fresh vegetables in mine. And I love making fresh guacamole. 
Basically, I like to take a bunch of vegetables - by the way, this is not the only way to eat - and then steam them or saute or grill or fry or blanch, put them in pasta, on pizza, in a burrito... you can make them into anything. Asian, mexican, italian. I'm really good with spices. Also, you can never go wrong with garlic.

Q What is your favorite meal you've had?
A I don't think I enjoy eating as much if I haven't prepared it. And watching people eat what I've cooked. Usually, if I have something prepared for me that I really enjoy, I like to try to make it myself and make it better. 
One thing. I generally don't like couscous. However, when I was at a fancy awards dinner -  actually that entire meal was amazing - there was this couscous with this green sauce all wrapped in a leek. and the sauce and the flavors were amazing. I still really don't like couscous, but that was an exception. I also had mac and cheese with black truffles. I really need to start incorporating truffle oil into my cooking. That's the really nice thing about upscale dining; I love to tell them, "I'm vegetarian, I like these things, make me something fantastic." I think chefs like that because they don't like to cook the same things all the time. They like to stretch. They like to try new things.

Q What is your favorite recipe?
A My tortilla soup. The apple-beet soup I make. Perry's apple-beet salad. All of Perry's ethiopian food. 

Q What's your favorite cookbook?
A I have a few that I reference. I usually read a bunch of different recipes for the same dish and then make up my own based on those. I love cookbooks with pictures, because the colors and the images inspire me to try new things. Epicurious is great. And I don't exclude recipes with meat in them because you can always substitute. A couple of the cookbooks I like are: Tamales 101, by Alice Guadalupe Tapp; and Vegetarian, by Fiona Biggs. 

Q What's your favorite restaurant?
A It's hard to say I love a particular restaurant, because anything I like at one I can just learn to make at home and then I won't go back. I like to try new places.

Q Any particular genre?
A Italian and thai and indian, most often. I like to have a variety when I eat and it's easier to get that when you go out rather than when you cook at home.

Q So you love to cook. Any ingredients you love or hate?
A I don't like tofu at all. I don't eat it. It's a consistency thing. And rice. I think rice is boring, except spanish rice when I make it at home. I could eat broccoli three meals a day, though. I love mini trees. I would eat those mini green trees every day.

Q What culinary tools do you use most often?
A Wooden spoon. Flat, heat-resistant spatula. Large saute pan.

Q Do you have any advice or thoughts you'd share with someone who was considering becoming a vegetarian?
A I actually just did this. I had a friend who was looking to become a vegetarian and she didn't know where to start and she said she couldn't just do it cold turkey [laugh]. I told her: 

1. Start by only eating cooked meats at home. 
2. If you don't already love cooking, learn to love it. 
3. Learn to love your produce section, if not your local farmer's market. 
4. Eat with other vegetarians. Just because it's fun. It's always fun to eat in groups, but especially with other vegetarians. 
5. Start out avoiding false meats. Not that there's anything wrong with them, but you should start planning your meals not around a "meat". 
6. Think about the things you're craving when you think you're craving meat. Like if you get a yen for barbecue wings, you might actually be missing the taste of barbecue sauce dipped in ranch dressing. You probably miss the condiments and the flavors. Come up with substitutions. One thing I really missed in the beginning was shrimp cocktails, because I missed the cocktail sauce. So I would boil cauliflower to roughly the same consistency of shrimp and dip that in cocktail sauce. It was pretty good. 
7. If you don't already like thai, indian, and ethiopian foods, you should learn to like them. Just because they're awesome. 
Oh, and read some books.