Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vegan Pumpkin Pasta

A couple years ago, before I was vegan, I had a dinner party in my little apartment, bringing together people who previously had not known each other but who I knew would get along. It was a very adult thing to do; at least I felt adult doing it.  I cooked all day, the windows open to let in the cool autumn air. Before anyone arrived, my decades-old green table with spots of bare wood sticking through the paint was adorned with serving platters, a gravy boat and plenty of food. I set a jazz Pandora station to play on my iPad at just the right level. I made sure to finish the cooking before anyone arrived, so I could spend my time as a gracious hostess. My heart beat fast as I waited for my guests to arrive, people I'd known for years. 

There were only five people, including myself, and the apartment was crammed. I almost did not have to get up to bring the dishes from the stove to the table. Some people were in chairs, others were on the two-person couch. Still a few months from meeting my beau, I sat among the two married couples and enjoyed abundant conversation between kindly minds.

The only dinner party rule I broke was probably the biggest and one I still break often without remorse -- I served dishes I had never made before. I hosted the party to have a fun grownup meeting,  yes, but also so I could try something new. There was pumpkin, sweet potato and apple cider. The spices of fall abounded, and every dish was a hit.

I look back on that evening so fondly as a moment of Amanda growing into herself, throwing a party with married couples in her very own, no-roommates apartment. The dishes were an important part of that evening, and so I knew I had to veganize the Pumpkin Pasta dish. Last weekend, I served it in the very same apartment, on the very same table, in the company of my beau, and the cycle felt complete.

Here, it is, veganized, with mushrooms and a little cheat to it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Vegan Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Fall has come at last. This past week here in Boston has seen absolutely perfect weather. It's sweater and leggings season, evening walk with a crisp breeze season. And it's pumpkin season. I know I'm not the first nor will I be the last blogger to rave about pumpkin, but how can I not? Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and all the flavors of fall just fold in so nicely with the velvety orangeness of pumpkin.

What I have brought today is actually a recipe my parents made using my grandmother's rolling pin, shown above. She used it to bake with love for many years before I came along and then watched it create a lifetime of goodies. And it's no worse for the wear, still going strong. So, this may not be a recipe from my grandmother, but she certainly played her part in it.

Let's welcome Fall back with some Vegan Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Vegan Snickerdoodles

I will be bringing these cookies to one last summer BBQ. I'm very excited to celebrate a dear friend's milestone birthday and to spend time with her adorable baby (and with some other cool people, I guess). Non-vegan food-centered social events like birthday parties do pose some challenges for vegans and others with specific diets. These times are much more challenging than the proverbial protein issue, especially since they aren't imaginary.

Mostly the challenge is fitting into the event socially. I would gladly go to my friend's birthday to laugh with friends and catch up without eating. I wouldn't complain one bit, but other people would be uncomfortable. There is a certain social expectation everyone must eat if anyone is. We all learned these manners from childhood, and overall they are a fair set of rules. When there are dietary restrictions involved things just get convoluted with politeness pressure. It's rude not to eat, and it's rude not to serve everyone; so hosts and guests alike stumble over each other worrying if the other one is happy.

I like to have an idea of the menu going in, which is easier the better I know the host of the party. Today's host is one of the most selfless people on the planet, so she has made sure there will be vegan options. I told her I would bring something to ease her workload and arranged to bring a dessert. This way I can participate in the oh, so socially important cake time. The conundrum then became bringing something sweet that would not compete with the birthday cake. Let's face it, vegan cupcakes eclipse anything else. So, I settled on the sugary, cinnamony snickerdoodles you see above. Also delicious, but less flashy.

This is another recipe from Martha Stewart's Cookies, with applesauce replacing the eggs.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Tale of Sourdough Redemption: Reviving a Moldy Starter

My starter in recovery with its favorite book for comfort, Peter Berley's Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

I'm the kind of person who plans her next day as she lays in bed the night before, then rehashes the plan when she wakes up the next morning. Last night, I fell asleep to visions of sourdough fairies, since I had decided to make my preferred whole wheat sourdough bread that takes about a day and a half to complete. I was going to get the bread started, clean the apartment, learn some music, copy some music and do who knows what else.

The whole plan was derailed from step one, however, when I took out my sourdough starter only to find it had grown a layer of mold.
"Freddy III!" I exclaimed, "What are we going to do?"
I was shocked. I was devastated. Okay, so maybe I hadn't been the best sourdough mom, neglecting my starter so long it got moldy. I didn't mean to; he just never told me he was in trouble! I don't make bread every week, but I love having the possibility waiting there for me. We always had a sourdough starter in my childhood house. Freddy the First lived there, happy to make us pancakes, crusty breads and baguettes. After we made something, it was often my job-- nay, privilege-- to feed him  I loved the yeasty smell and the messy glop sloshing around I mixed in flour and water. Then came the bubbles as he grew! Freddy the First never got mold.

But his grandstarter did. After a moment of mourning, wondering if we had reached the end, I turned to the internet. Lo, there was hope! This site showed me the way. Now Freddy is in recovery, and it's not certain that he'll make it. He is bubbling, though, and it gives me hope.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Grandmother's Crazy Cake: One-Pan Vegan Chocolate Cake

I am so excited to give you one of my grandmother's recipes as is! Her "Crazy Cake" contains no animal products, and it only dirties one pan. It is also fluffy and delicious. What more could a baker want?

As July winds down and we have more of this year's summer BBQs behind us than ahead, I find myself reflecting on how nice it is to have summer get-togethers. The holidays are the time we more traditionally think about reuniting with loved ones, but those are so few and precious that we don't get to see everyone. The weather can be so unpredictable, and many times a holiday is about sheltering in place with one faction of our family.

Summer, on the other hand, is practically a word meaning "much more time to do things." Sure, we fill that time up pretty quickly, especially as adults; but there seem to be more possibilities shining in with the summer sun. The days are longer, the weather is more forgiving for travel, and the sunshine allows us to gather more people into backyards than we could ever fit into houses.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending one such backyard gathering of a community I have been part of for over a decade now. It was wonderful to see old friends and to even make new ones. Sure, vegans attending omnivore BBQs cannot always expect much for food (though the hosts at this event do always provide some delicious plant-based fare); but the food isn't really the point. Sometimes it's nice to fill up one's plate and giggle about what so-and-so's baby just did rather than discuss the food. It's also good to see people in person, even if Facebook tells us their every move. We see their faces and their expressions, hear their laughs and (ever more commonly in my life) hold their babies. I am very grateful for summer and for my friends who take the effort to bring friends together.

So, to friends, BBQs, veggie burgers and, of course, to cake!

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Vegan's Ultimate Veggie Burger

A recent New York Times article proposes to have made the "Ultimate Veggie Burger," one that satisfies a craving for "the hamburger experience (soft bun, chewy protein, lots of spicy condiments)" and mimics the texture of meat burgers. This article inspired me to cook up some burgers at home, but rather than try to veganize this dairy-filled recipe, I pondered a little on what I even want from a veggie burger. 

The author is certainly entitled to her view that the goal of a veggie burger's existence is to be meat-like, and I am always pleased to find omnivores who enjoy veg fare. However, I do find it interesting that my favorite veggie burgers flout the narrow expectation of an existence of mimicry.

Sure, most of today's veggie burgers come from a modern vegetarian movement to replace meat products; but I like to connect their history further back. I see them as descendants of ancient chickpea balls sent from above straight to the Promised Land. Falafel, yes,  gloriously spiced, crisp and soft falafel is the fore-parent of our bean burgers.

The dishes exist separately today, but falafel and my ultimate burger share a few characteristics, like a mashed bean texture and cleanly spiced flavor. I also like my veggie burgers to display their components proudly, giving them a varied texture. Onions, beans and seeds all remain somewhat recognizable, both visually and in flavor.

I'm sure preferences regarding the meat-like/ none-meat-like divide differ among all dietary circles -- vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, everyone coming from a different place. As a life-long veg*n, I have zero cravings for meat-like burgers. In fact, they sometimes scare me away with their fleshy appearances. That being said, I will always cross the divide rather than suffer through a bad none-meat-like burger, as I'm sure my meat-like-loving friends would do when confronted with an over-cooked "meaty" monstrosity.

Now, I am happy to share with you my adaptation of a wonderful burger from one of my favorite vegan cookbooks, The Oh She Glows Cookbook

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Grandmother's Oatmeal Sugar Cookies, Veganized

I don't know if I have mentioned it on this blog, but the grandmother whose recipes I have been veganizing isn't one I ever met on this plane. She passed away a few years before I was born and much too soon. Stories of her have filled my life, though. She was like an excited little bird, according to my mother, flitting here and there with an energy that was impossible to contain within her tiny frame. We have bracelets of hers that, even as a child, I could not fit onto my wrists. She had an apron that said, "Never trust a skinny cook," the extra joke being that she was both skinny and not to be trusted. She was a beautiful mix of ethnicities, growing up in a time when being different was never allowed. I hope I have some of her wit and vigor and maybe a little of her artistic sensibilities. I will never know her in person, but I can see her handwriting on the little recipe cards my mother keeps in her recipe box, and I can follow her instructions from a time gone by.

Today, I present to you vegan oatmeal sugar cookies. When I started making these cookies, I wondered why I would bother veganizing something I'm sure can be found all over the internet. For reasons seen above, I did it anyway. The result was not just satisfaction for the soul. These cookies are lighter than the average oatmeal cookie. They have a nutty flavor, and they melt easily in one's mouth. This is not just another vegan oatmeal cookie recipe; it's my grandmother's and mine.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nut-Free Vegan Nachos

I write today from the lovely state of Maine, where I am visiting my parents. We are a family who cooks together-- always have been, always will be. We love to try new recipes and new takes on old ones. It's where I get my taste for experimenting in the kitchen. I am very grateful for their complete support of my veganism even as they remain omnivorous. There is nothing they won't try making or eating, and the notion of vegan cheese, vegan scrambles or other vegan "replacements" does not bother them one bit.

Today, we decided to try our hands at vegan nachos. My mother has a tree nut allergy, so we steered clear of the nut-based cheese. Thankfully, I found this Cashew-less Vegan Queso, and I will tell you, it's delicious. Other than finding the cheese, I was really just on assembly duty-- my mother was the craftswoman. Almost everything was cooked by her before I arrived. I won't complain about that deal! So, from my mother's kitchen to yours,

Nut-Free Vegan Nachos

Tortilla chips
Cashew-less Vegan Queso from the Minimalist Baker
Pico de gallo from
Refried beans from (leave out the bacon but follow everything else)
Avocado, sliced
Black olives
Hot pepper, sliced

1. Assemble to your liking.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Vegan Peanut Butter Cups

My favorite candy has always been peanut butter cups. Always, as in, since the dawn of my candy-eating life. When I was a small child, my favorite television show was The Gummy Bears (that one I have grown out of). I loved both peanut butter cups and The Gummy Bears so much that I decided they must be connected, the logic being that all good must come from the same source. Thus, I jettisoned the name of Reese and christened peanut butter cups, Gummy Bear Candy.

My special name for the beauteous concoction of peanut butter and chocolate was, of course, made complicated by the fact there exists in this world a much less chocolatey and rather less melty sugar snack to which most people refer as gummy bears. One day, I was noticeably perturbed and my parents no less embarrassed when visitors from across the country presented me with what they thought was my favorite candy and what I thought was bear-shaped sealant.

To avoid confusion, I am not calling my recent convection anything to do with bears-- gummy, sticky, bouncy or otherwise. Reese, though, does not get his due either because he chooses to make his treats with animal products and who knows what other chemicals besides. Therefore, I present, Vegan Peanut Butter Cups, plain and simple.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vegan Chocolate-Ginger Brownies

Say what you will about Martha Stewart. She did bad things, she did her time, and there is still something creepy about her empire. But her empire also produces really amazing recipes. When I went vegan, there were plenty of baking books I chucked; there was just no reason to keep generic non-vegan recipes when I could buy tried and true vegan ones that are just as good, if not better.

Martha's books are special, though. I knew I had to keep them. Besides containing creative recipes, I find her approach to baking both similar to my own and easy to veganize. I used to halve the amount of eggs in most cookie recipes, instead adding more sugar. I found Martha already did this. Now, with fewer eggs comes easier substitution. Her recipes also lean on the moist side, so apple sauce fits right into the makeup of her cookies.

Here, I have veganized her Chocolate-Ginger Brownies in honor of my friend, Ginger's birthday. They came out moist, flavorful and delicate. Be careful handling them-- if you can stave off eating them all before they are served.

And happy birthday, Ginger!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jason's Soul Vegan Peanut Butter and Banana Ice Cream

My man, Jason, eats both peanut butter and bananas like it's his only chance at survival. He eats them separately, together, for breakfast, for snack, every day. I've seen him dash across the street to a separate store to buy a banana when they weren't available at the cafe at which we were eating. So, when I discovered a vegan ice cream could be made simply from combining bananas and peanut butter, I knew I had to try making it. Once I tasted this dish's simple beauty, I found it worthy to be named in Jason's honor.

The simplicity of the concept is as mind numbing as hanging out with frozen bananas. Just puree pieces of frozen banana, add other ingredients and eat. I suggest freezing your banana bits on a flat surface, apart, which I did not do. They will puree faster, and you won't need to take a large knife to the contents of your food processor.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Veggie Sandwich with Cannellini Dill Spread

I made this cannellini dill dip a few months ago, as a Mediterranean- style bridge to help my beau with his return to Boston from Italy. Served alongside pita chips, carrot sticks and marinated mushrooms, it was intended to be light so we might enjoy a hearty serving of pie afterward. The dip was so delicious and filling, though, our bellies only had room for tiny taste of dessert in the end. It was so good, in fact, that just the other day, my companion mentioned he was still thinking about it.

The idea of that dip planted once again in my mind, I thought of it immediately when I wanted a nice spread for a simple sandwich. The dill in the dip-turned-spread provides a nice complement to the raw veggies in the sandwich, giving everything a fresh, crisp, clean feel.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Grandmother's Gooey Lemon Bars, Veganized

These lemon bars are not anything I had growing up. They were in my grandmother's recipe box, and I decided to see what I could do about them. The whole box is a time capsule of what Americans were eating in the 1950's, and these bars are no exception. Simple and nutritionally void, these bars represent a lot of American food at the time. 

I imagine them being served as an afternoon snack during the summer, along with ice tea. My version isn't quite as elegant as I would like, but I suspect they are true to the original. I perhaps shouldn't have expected elegance from a dish that requires mixing with one's hands.

Boston-Area Vegan-Friendly Restaurants

Not Boston, nor a restaurant. Just pretty and in New England.

In my previous post on going vegan, I touched upon the idea of finding vegan-friendly restaurants. Again, to me a place is vegan-friendly if its staff knows what vegan is and can provide appropriate dishes.

As a Boston-area vegan, I have my own preferences for places to eat, and I thought I would share them.

Veggie Galaxy-- Best restaurant ever, by far. The bakery is completely vegan and completely delicious. My birthday cake came from there this past year. The diner is vegetarian, but everything can be made vegan --omelets, waffles, pancakes, onion rings, sandwiches. Just go there. Omnivores like it, too.

O2 Vegan Cafe-- I do yoga here, too, and helped set up the place, so I'm very proud to recommend it. Go there, get the seitan slam and thank me later. Or you can get the spicy monkey smoothie. You'll still thank me.

True Bistro -- Completely vegan restaurant. It's delicious, if a little pricier and farther out. I go here a few times a year as it's on the fancier side. They also have a nut-free menu, so anyone allergic to eating tree nuts knows what is safe. They serve weekend brunch and dinner.

Clover -- Vegetarian fast food with vegan offerings. Get the falafel platter and call it a day.

Walnut Grille -- Vegetarian restaurant in Newton. It's worth the trip if you're in the area. I've only had brunch there, but I would be satisfied if that's all they served. They're vegan omelets are fresh and yummy. The decor is very cute, and the prices are reasonable.

My Thai Vegan Cafe -- Asian-inspired vegan restaurant in Chinatown. It's been a while since I have gone there, but I liked it and it's all vegan.

Dosa N' Curry -- Awesome vegetarian Indian restaurant. All the vegan dishes are marked, and they are all good. Don't plan on going for a run after hitting up this place.

Ole -- Mexican restaurant that knows what vegan means and offers a specifically vegan dish. Also, their guacamole is to die for. I had my birthday here last year, and it was a hit.

The Yard House -- They are surprisingly accommodating to all dietary restrictions. The manager came out himself to tell me what exactly was vegan. The food isn't stellar, but it's a great option for a group setting with people who insist on American fare.

Bronwyn -- Trendy German restaurant with, of all things, a delicious vegan dish. It was important to them that they provide one, and they were quite creative in keeping it in line with the German fare. There's only one, so don't expect choices; but you can always linger over the beer menu.

Helmand -- Afghani restaurant with a vegetarian platter they will make vegan for you if you ask.

Amsterdam Falafel -- So good. The pita bread isn't vegan, so get a falafel salad. You choose which toppings to put on, like tahini, baba ganoush, vegetables. It's messy and wonderful.

Asmara -- Vegans are pretty safe with Eritrean or Ethiopian fare, but I am pointing out this one because I remember them being knowledgeable about what is vegan. Bring friends, get a platter and enjoy eating with your hands. The flavor combinations are to die for.

One Year In: My Advice On Going Vegan

As I've said before, I am about one year into my vegan journey. My lifestyle change manifesto was posted on my opera singer website because that's where I was blogging at the time. Now that I have a little experience under my belt, but not too much that I don't remember the transition, I want to give my tips on how to take the plunge.

Note, my plunge was a smaller jump than some because I have lived my whole life as a vegetarian. I have no idea what it's like to give up bacon or buttered cod because I've never tasted those things and have never wanted to do so. On the other hand, I did have the experience of taking control of my food choices for the first time. My vegetarianism previously had been of necessity due to bodily intolerance. Although I was sympathetic to the cause, I used my inability to eat meat as an excuse when people asked questions about it; it made them more comfortable. As a vegan by choice, I stand by all my reasons.

So, without further ado,
Amanda's Tips for Going Vegan

1. Have a reason.

I thought about becoming vegan for years before I actually did. It seemed hard. It seemed impractical. It seemed unnecessary. Hard and impractical are easier to handle once you have made up your mind that it is necessary. Though I should state veganism is neither hard nor impractical, the transition seems so from the edge of the cliff.

For me, the driving point was that cage-free eggs aren't really made by happy chickens. I read articles like this one that put doubts in my head about the line between lip service and reality. Do your research. Explore PETA's site. Whatever your personal issue is (animal treatment, the environment, health), find out more until your mind is satisfied. If something smells rotten in a lot of industries, it probably is. Allow yourself to stop eating rotten food.

2. Give yourself time to transition, but clean out your pantry in one fell swoop.

I decided to go vegan upon waking up one morning in the beginning of June. The night before, I had a conversation with my beau about all my doubts regarding the treatment of farm animals. By dawn, I was convinced. I was also suddenly a vegan about to go on a trip to the other coast and who had a good amount of dairy in her pantry.

I went on my trip without telling my companions about the recent change. I wanted to come to terms with it myself before going public. I tried my best, but ended up eating some animal products. Traveling as a vegan is an advanced skill, and it's okay not to be at that level yet. One trick I did learn: When in California, substitute avocado for cheese---always. If you see it in another dish, they don't have a problem putting it in yours.

As for my pantry, I tried just using up the foods with animal products, but that system didn't work. For one, my mind had already decided eggs and dairy milk were gross, so I didn't want to use any of it. Secondly, it dragged out the process. I wanted to own my new lifestyle, and I was hindered by things I had bought in the past. My advice: Give away all the non-vegan food and start fresh.

3. Gather recipes.

This is the fun part. Follow vegan boards, like mine, on Pinterest. Buy or borrow cookbooks. There are some great vegan ones out there. Here are some of my favorites:

Plenty of vegetarian cookbooks have vegan recipes or vegan options for a lot of their recipes. I highly recommend:

The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen is an especially wonderful book for making delicious meals from scratch. I have learned techniques, like blanching vegetables, as well as recipes.

Once you have more recipes collected than you could make in a lifetime, being vegan won't seem so hard.

4. Have a headline-length reason for being vegan-- for explaining to others.

The reasons aren't obvious to omnivores, and a lot of people are not impressed with a shrug or a vague answer. Some will become defensive when you tell them of your new choice, and they will want to poke holes in all of your reasons for it. They don't care that it's new and you're still trying to figure it out.

For these people, just come up with a one-sentence statement. "I don't like the way animals are treated." Even a small phrase works. "For the environment." From there, you can tell if your companion genuinely wants to know more or if they just want to be judgmental. The conversation often ends there, but if it doesn't, talk to those who are genuinely interested; walk away from those who aren't. My headline is, "For ethical, environmental and health reasons." Most people are satisfied with that.

5. Check out vegan-friendly restaurants in your area, and download the Happy Cow app for travel.

To me, a vegan-friendly restaurant is anywhere they know what vegan means. Vegetarian and vegan restaurants are obvious starting points, but you will want to have some omnivorous restaurants in your back pocket for steering large groups into going someplace you can eat.

In addition to Happy Cow, Yelp can be useful if you do a search for "vegan" in the reviews. Here are my Boston-Area recommendations.

6. Enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Easy Bruschetta on Frenchbread Crostini

At his annual studio recitals, my voice teacher likes everyone to bring some food to share along with their vocal talents. This year, the recital fell on the same weekend as a performance of Die Fledermaus in which I was singing. Along with having my normal church gig that morning, I simply did not have time slave in the kitchen that day. Luckily, so many dishes are better marinated. I assembled everything in a bowl the day before and only had to worry about bringing it all with me when I left in the morning. 

This recipe is the what-I-had-on-and-or-found-at-the-market version of this one at Vegan In the Freezer, with the additional instructions of the crostini.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Easy Taco Salad

 The other day, I very maturely texted my mother with, "It's too hot. I don't know what to eat." The summer heat can really make me unmotivated to do anything, let alone prepare food; and turning on appliances in my small apartment is not an option on those hot, humid days. My mother suggested salad, to which I countered that I could not subsist on just lettuce. Then, she reminded me about taco salad, something I used to eat often when I still lived at home. It is quick, healthy, adaptable and filling. It's basically dip with the addition of lettuce. We used to add thousand island dressing to the salad, but I find it perfectly seasoned with just the "taco" ingredients. Perhaps someday I will try it with one of these recipes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Early Summer Tofu Scramble

As I mentioned earlier, I spent the past few days on Martha's Vineyard, enjoying time with some of my favorite friends. We were very lucky to have a house that fit thirteen humans and a dog. Vacationing with a large group could cause some difficulties, especially at breakfast time, when everyone is still there and hungry. My solution was to throw together a giant tofu scramble, a food with one of the highest easy to delicious ratios on the planet. I am so happy to have omnivorous friends with no qualms trying what is often reserved for the veg set. I am also happy to report that the breakfast was a hit with all parties.

After breakfast, we went exploring. We checked out Chappaquiddick Island, bike trails along forests and beaches, Mytoi Gardens and the sunset at the Aquinnah Cliffs. As you can see by the pictures below, beauty abounds on the Vineyard.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Blueberry Lemon Cornmeal Muffins (Vegan)

The Summer Solstice is upon us. Come tomorrow, we in the Northeast can officially stop complaining about the non-existent New England Spring and embrace warm weather. This weekend, I also happen to be going on a very New England summer trip to Martha's Vineyard. Between the official change of season and my very summery weekend away, only the most summery of foods will do.

What is the summer of food to a Maine-raised vegan, you ask? The short answer: blueberries! At least for me, the ubiquity and simple sweetness of blueberries makes summer happen. We find them everywhere-- in breads, wine, books (!), jams and everything in between.

Yes, as I said just this week, I don't like raw, whole fruit; so I'm not one to snack on these treats like a bear. If they are baked though, oh goodness, blueberries win the prize. They also, to my taste, enjoy a complementary friend. This friend is lemon. Lemon and blueberry is the ultimate summer pairing. The combinations of lightness and sweetness, citrus and earthiness bring the joy with one bite of a hundred beach days and a thousand picnics straight to one's tastebuds.

Here, you find lemon paired with blueberry, along with the grit of cornmeal, in one of the most portable snacks or breakfasts in the culinary repertoire -- the muffin. Take these to the beach, to a picnic, to a hike in the woods; or, like me, take them for a weekend away with your friends.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Everyday Berry Protein-Rich Smoothie

I'm going to tell you something shocking. Brace yourself. Ready?

I don't really like whole fruits. There, I put it out there for the whole world to hear. I, a food lover and vegan, don't enjoy chomping on fruit. I love the idea of them-- so luscious and colorful, naturally sweet and packed with flavor; I just don't like chewing them. They are so very cold and my teeth don't like cold. They have skins and seeds and all sorts of different textures. My mouth just isn't a fan.

The way to fix fruits, for me, is to pulverize them. Juice them, jam them, and best of all, smooth them. I love smoothies. They are luscious and colorful, sweet and packed with flavor. Best of all, they don't require chewing. They are a tasty way for a picky texture-conscious eater like me to get all the health benefits of raw fruit.

My smoothies combine fruit with protein for a healthy and filling meal. The following recipe is the first vegan recipe I ever created, developed years before I switched to a fully vegan diet, in fact. Easy to make in large batches, it's been a staple in my diet ever since.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Che Farro Porcini Soup and Veggie Pesto Panini

When starting today's dinner, I fully intended to follow recipes I had on hand. I swear I did. It's a dreary day in Boston, rainy but not too cold. Soup and a sandwich sounded like a perfect match. So, I found a soup in one of my many cookbooks and a sandwich from one of my many Pinterest pins. I started making my shopping list and discovered I already had too many easy replacements for what I would otherwise buy. Here is where we find the happy crossroads between following and experimenting-- adaptations of circumstance.

I decided to use farro, a grain I found on sale once and still had in my cabinet, rather than the barley called for in the original soup recipe. This decision led me, of course, to hum the Gluck aria, "Che faro senza Eurydice." Hence the soup's new name.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo

Here it is, my grandmother's fettuccine alfredo, vegan style. Earlier, I hit upon a nice fettuccine recipe, but this is the one I was seeking.

As I have cooked various vegan versions of common cheesy, creamy recipes, I have really come to question what is the essence of dairy. Recently, I discovered that blue cheese flavor is perfectly achievable. Now, I find that vegan alfredo sauce can be made at home without any magic tricks. It turns out, dairy as we know it clearly has nothing to do with a cow. It's all about the taste, texture and ultimately, how the food makes us feel.

This fettuccine alfredo not only feels and tastes the same as my grandmother's original, made with cream, eggs and dairy parmesan cheese; it is a healthier version. Using beans to make the cream cuts calories and adds all those bean-y nutrients. The beans themselves hide innocently within the sauce-- my mouth still doesn't really believe they're there!

So, around these parts, if it tastes like dairy, smells like dairy and feels like dairy, it must be... a darn good vegan recipe.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Vegan Fettuccine con Funghi

This recipe is not my grandmother's fettuccine. This one is more like a friend I met along the way-- the sort of friend I'd like to bring to a dinner party. I would like to bring this friend to a dinner party more than I would the one I was looking for, in fact. I will still find that original fettuccine, and we will reminisce together. This one, though; with this fettuccine, I will have new, flavorful conversations.

My first attempt at my grandmother's fettuccine was a flop, you see, but not a grand failure. The flavor of the coconut milk was too strong, and the dish was too oily. The base was nice, though, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Finally, as I was falling asleep, a voice came upon me and said, "Amanda, make the dish again and add mushrooms." The mushrooms not only took care of both issues, but added a sort of elegance of substance. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Some Stir Fry Inspiration

I have no recipe for you today; only inspiration. My beau made the above stir fry for us last night. It was as delicious as it is beautiful. I wish I could give you precise instructions on how to recreate the masterpiece; but that's just not how he works. It has peppers, fiddleheads and tofu, along with lemon juice and plenty of spices-- that's all I know. 

If you feel like taking advantage of spring's bounty with a dish of your own, here are some recipes to get you started:

You can find more recipes I've found on my Pinterest Board.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Vegan Cheddar Cheese Ball

Sometimes it is true that you don't know what you've got until it's gone, and sometimes you don't know what you had lost until you have it back again. My family likes to serve a certain cheese ball whenever there is half an excuse -- holidays,  parties, homecomings. Along with the cupcakes I made previously, the cheese ball was a staple in our Maine farmhouse. Unlike the cupcakes, however, I got kind of tired of it. It was the same cheese ball all the time. Then I went vegan and for a long time went without the creamy, nutty, tangy combination of flavors peculiar to this dish. Tasting my own veganized version, I was immediately transported to countless days with my family. I was also reminded that this ball is delicious.

Maybe I'll sneak this version into the next family holiday and maybe I'll even tell them it's vegan.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Article: Sustainable Schmaltz

I opened my email yesterday to find a lovely article from the New York Times sent to me by the man in my life. It was about food and traditions. How appropriate! It's nice to have a guy who just gets me. Dear readers, if you enjoy what I'm trying to do with this blog, you should enjoy this article as well.

The article is about Jewish Americans reclaiming their traditional foods. Now, I grew up in an area far from traditional Jewish foods and don't even know half of foods referenced in the article (though I doubt many are vegan); but I truly appreciate the movement. It's lovely to see others viewing the past as well as the present and maintaining culture that honors both.

I'll let you read the article in full here.

Here's a snippet to entice you: 
But at last, there are signs of hope. Some older bakeries, like Orwasher’s andKossar’s Bialys, are under new management that is returning to less commercial, better-tasting breads. Russ & Daughters tracked down a Jewish baker in Springfield, Mass., who uses an 80-year-old starter from his family’s long-closed bakery in the Bronx. Now he’s back in New York and baking seriously old-school breads like schissel corn rye, shot through with rich ores of caraway seeds, and an old-fashioned dark pumpernickel baked inside a thin wrapper of light dough to protect the crust from over-baking. 

P.S. I am really tickled by the term, "sustainable schmaltz," and plan to use it with my choir as soon as possible.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vegan Surprise Cupcakes: Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Filling

As soon as I became vegan, I knew my grandmother's Surprise Cupcake recipe was one of which I simply had to make a vegan version. The light, sweet filling hides so neatly within the plain exterior of the chocolate cupcake. The flavors are simple, yet layered; and the combination has won over many a cream cheese hater.

The original cupcakes were served at countless special and not-so-special events throughout my lifetime: BBQs, birthday parties, Wednesdays, potlucks, camping trips. I often found myself saying, "You have to come to X because my mom is bringing her famous Surprise Cupcakes!" When advertising for my master's vocal recital, and using similar enticing statements, I did have to explain that the surprise was, in fact, something legal in all fifty states. Other than that caveat, I like to keep the surprise as secret as possible. There's a certain joy in watching a person discover something unexpected and then enjoying it.

It took a few attempts for me to create this recipe, and though I'm not quite convinced it's the one, the replica, it's a delicious near miss. The filling is a bit more creamy and delicate than the one I'm seeking, and there are a few more steps than I would like; but these are some darn good cupcakes.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


I, Amanda, am on the verge of my personal first veganniversary -- one year since I became vegan, and I have been doing some reflecting on what this year has meant in my culinary, dietary and personal lives. The simple conclusion is that things haven't really changed that much, except that I don't eat certain foods and I have more energy.

Digging deeper, though, there is still the fear that I am missing out on certain experiences. Food is about so much more than eating. It can be about friends, conversation, comfort, solace, laughter, memories and any number of different human feelings.

The memories aspect of eating is one that nagged at my decision to stop eating animal products. Yes, it was what my conscience told me to do; but I was afraid chia seeds and quinoa would erase all my connections to the past. In the end, old traditions cannot stop us in our search for a more just world. Just look at the history of the United States for innumerable examples. Frankly, I like having the right to vote and work and live among equals in this ever-evolving Great Experiment.

And it turns out, quinoa doesn't actually have the power to take over my life. It has its place, to be sure. But I'm still the same person, with the same memories, and with the same family as I was a year ago. So, we come to the purpose of this blog.

My maternal grandmother passed away before I came to be, and all I have left of her are stories and recipes (and a weird red light bulb filled with detergent or something). This blog was created with the recipes in mind. I want to make vegan versions of them that replicate as much as possible the dishes my own mother made for me, reading the words her mother had written delicately on now very precious index cards.

And I want to take you along for the journey. I will try to share my failures as well as my successes, as best as I can muster. You can learn from my mistakes and share my successes. Then we can tackle all the dishes that taste like home, so the vegan journey remains ever connected as well as compassionate.