Mushroom-Chestnut Soup


I’ve wanted to make a soup with chestnuts in it for the past three months. November failed in chestnut soup-making because who can expect the miniature grocery store just off of campus to stock chestnuts? December fared no better because clearly everyone else wanted to make chestnut soup, too, and thus yanked all of the bags of fresh chestnuts off of the shelves at the Whole Foods in Madison, WI (where I spent winter break) before I could get to them. January didn’t do so hot because chestnuts had just gone out of season and had therefore gotten expensive and I felt guilty spending $10 of my parents’ money on a jar of chestnuts when they’re already paying inordinate sums for my college tuition and soon my unfulfilled desire for chestnut soup resulted in me crying into my mother’s bosom, thanking her profusely for supporting my education and fully acknowledging my family’s privilege in being able to do so and…well, by then I had forgotten about chestnut soup.

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So I finally found inexpensive jarred chestnuts at, who knew, the miniature grocery store just off of campus. And I ate the subsequent soup without experiencing the need to sign my soul to my parents. A lengthy and emotional journey, all for soup with chestnuts, but I dare say that this soup certainly merits its preceding turmoil. Creamy, rich, unctuous, and full of comforting spices, this soup will warm you inside and out during the continuously arctic temperatures. Enjoy.

Mushroom-Chestnut Soup—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat

Serves 3-4.


5 cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms
3 tbsp melted coconut oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 can coconut milk
2-3 cups mushroom broth
1 cup roasted chestnuts, jarred or fresh
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Toss the sliced mushrooms with 2 tbsp of the oil. Spread out in an even layer on a baking sheet and roasted for 20-30 minutes, or until the mushrooms have taken on a golden-brown hue and released some of their juices.

While the mushrooms roast, heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes, or until translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the spices and sauté for another minute. Add the coconut milk, mushroom broth, and chestnuts. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the mushrooms have finished roasting, at least 15 minutes.

When the mushrooms have finished roasting, add them and their juices to the soup pot. Let the mushrooms simmer in the broth for another 5-10 minutes, then puree, either with an immersion blender or (very carefully) in a standing blender. Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Serve hot.

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Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Vedge Cookbook Review + Spanish Roasted Brassicas Recipe

As I mentioned in my last blog post regarding development and consumerism, I find myself feeling quite uncomfortable during the holiday season—a time of family, love, generosity, and unity that our modern Western culture has overshadowed with greed, overconsumption, material accumulation, and Black Friday casualties. These disconcerting cultural tendencies, magnified during the holidays, bolster my urge to live simply, with minimal possessions and producing minimal waste. My view of living simply, though, does not necessarily mean living without gifts—indeed, they can provide a heartwarming medium through which to foster community and relationships—but rather prompts a rethinking of gifts and gift-giving.

My discomfort with our current mainstream notion of gifts stems from the attitude surrounding them. As a child, I judged the quality of my Christmas by the number of presents I received, even having the nerve to cheekily ask my mother, “That’s it?” if I felt dissatisfied. But would I ever feel satisfied if the importance of gift-giving lied in accumulating as much as possible? Could I ever escape the power that possessions wielded over me if the absence of the latest Apple product in my Christmas haul inspired in me resentment toward my mother?

Gifts with which I can feel comfortable stem not from the desire to own the latest technological gadgets, nor from a false need to surround oneself with “stuff,” but from a genuine feeling of love and gratitude between both of the gift-givers, and between them and the earth. In the dire state of our world, we must imbue all of our actions with a consciousness of alleviating our impact on the planet, and gift-giving proves no different. In my view, loving and earth-friendly gifts include those that the recipient can put to good use, and those that generate little to no waste. For example, the bulk of my Christmas list comprised of donations to various organizations such as Our Hen House, and Kindle cookbooks, which require minimal resources to produce as opposed to print books, and which I use every day.

But literally…every day. Not an exaggeration in the least. Because I view the act of providing non-vegans with flavorful, hearty, and unique food as integral to animal activism, I constantly look to my collection of virtual cookbooks for inspiration in such endeavors. I also view my cookbooks as helpful in honing the skills necessary for my ideal career path—one that creates a livelihood out of the aforementioned activism. Thanks to my dear mother, the latest additions to this Kindle cookbook collection include Vedge by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby; Vegan Secret Supper by Merida Anderson; Dirt Candy: A Cookbook by Amanda Cohen; Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry; Betty Goes Vegan by Annie and Dan Shannon; and The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook by Jere and Emilee Gettle.

PicMonkey Collage

So that the section of my brain devoted to culinary creativity would not explode from all of the tantalizing recipes within the pages of these six cookbooks, I decided to limit my kitchen experimentation first to recipes from Vedge, since it comes from the masterminds behind my favorite restaurant. Featuring 100 recipes from the Vedge menu tweaked minimally to suit the home kitchen, Vedge perfectly reflects the sophistication, beauty, and locally sourced/seasonal philosophy of the highly acclaimed Philadelphia restaurant. Organized in a manner similar to that of the restaurant menu, Vedge starts off with “Small Bites and Small Plates” such as olives, salads, and light vegetable dishes; moves on to “Soups and Stews” that span from brothy pho to creamy parsnip-chestnut bisque; includes a “Dirt List” with preparations that maximally highlight seasonal and specialty varieties of vegetables; offers heartier “Plates” that hire beans, lentils, and grains as backup singers to the superstar veggies; appeals to the baker in all of us with creative fruit-based desserts (can you say Strawberry Sorrel Bread Pudding?) and unpretentious breads; and finishes with unique cocktails.

Spiced Little Carrots with Chickpea-Sauerkraut Puree (photo from the Vedge website).

Spiced Little Carrots with Chickpea-Sauerkraut Puree (photo from the Vedge website).

Eggplant Braciole (photo from the Vedge website).

Eggplant Braciole (photo from the Vedge website).

Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers, and Red Onion (photo from the Vedge website).

Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers, and Red Onion (photo from the Vedge website).

Since Christmas, I’ve had the pleasure of making and eating four of the book’s recipes, two of which my mother and I first enjoyed at the Vedge restaurant itself. The Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce constituted the appetizer of my family’s two-course Christmas dinner, though I used a homemade silken tofu mayonnaise instead of the Vegenaise recommended for use in the recipe (many of the recipes in Vedge call for vegan mayo, and Rich and Kate recommend Vegenaise. However, I found that homemade mayo provides a quality substitute in the recipes for those of us who like to avoid prepackaged products). A dish just as tasty as that we remembered from our visit to the restaurant, the smoky, just-charred sprouts with the tangy mustard sauce created a winning combination. My mother also noted that the texture of the shaved sprouts harbored so much substance that she almost mistook them for pasta. I have a feeling that we will be making this dish often.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce

The night after Christmas, Vedge once again graced our plates with Celery Root Fritters and Remoulade (a pseudo-play on crab cakes and tartar sauce). Fostering an intense love of the knobbly, underused root, I found myself immediately taken by its double use in the recipe: once, roasted with onions, mashed, formed into patties, coated with chickpea flour and Old Bay seasoning, and pan-fried; twice, grated, blanched, and combined with vegan mayo, capers, dill, mustard, shallots and tarragon to create a tartar sauce-like spread, the taste of which you’ll never want to leave your tongue. I only wish that the recipe had specified to squeeze the excess moisture out of the grated celery root after blanching it, for the remoulade turned out a bit waterier than I would have preferred. All in all, though, a fabulous dish (the veggies you see in front of the fritters comprise a simple sauté of brussels sprouts and sunchokes, not featured in the cookbook).


Celery Root Fritters & Remoulade; Brussels Sprout-Sunchoke Saute.

To please the ethnic food-loving palate of my best friend Maddie, whom I invited over for dinner one night, I played with Vedge’s Squash Empanadas with Green Romesco—homemade dough encasing a mash of squash roasted with coriander and cumin, accompanied by a bright yet deeply flavored sauce of roasted green peppers, garlic, cilantro, and toasted almonds. I substituted spelt flour and coconut oil for the all-purpose flour and vegan butter/shortening called for in the recipe, yielding flaky, toothsome results. However, the saltiness of the dough proved a bit much for my saltily sensitive palate, and I would probably omit the salt altogether as I usually do if I decide to recreate the dish. The other qualm I have with the recipe comes from the amount of roasting time specified. The recipe calls for roasting the squash at 400°F for 8-12 minutes and the peppers for 6-8 minutes, yet with small-diced veggies and an oven that errs on the side of too hot, the veggies required about double the time specified to adequately cook (I experienced the same problem with the celery root in the fritter recipe above). If you find yourself with the Vedge cookbook, I would recommend planning on roasting the veggies in any recipe for longer than specified, and to plan the cooking of your meals accordingly. Recipe technicalities aside, the dish proved crowd-pleasing and flavorfully stunning. I served it alongside a recipe of my own creation for Spanish Roasted Brassicas (recipe below).


Finally, I tried my hand at another recipe with which my mother and I fell in love while dining at Vedge: Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade. Between bites of the soup, my mother and I could not help but exclaim, “This tastes exactly like bouillabaisse. But there can’t be fish in it…dear goodness, I hope there’s not fish in it…”. Rest assured, the folks at Vedge had not decided to renounce their morals in a single dish, but they sure created a memorable gastronomic experience for my mother and I. The soup features simmered cauliflower crushed to a rice-like consistency surrounded by a tomatoey broth spiked with white wine and Old Bay seasoning, complimented by a gremolata-like topping of parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. My version of the recipe increased the amount of rice called for and added chickpeas for substance, substituted brown jasmine rice for white, and (sadly) omitted the veryveryveryveryvvery pricey saffron. While I quite enjoyed the texture of the soup, I found its flavor a bit lacking, and I doubt that this unfortunate occurrence owes itself completely to the omission of the saffron. Unfortunately, this particular dish might be best left in the hands of the Vedge team (or in the hands of someone with some damn saffron…).

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Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade

Tomorrow, I plan to experiment with Vedge’s Soba Bowl with Shiitake Dashi and Market Greens (a dish that authors Rich and Kate purport to enjoy every morning for breakfast with their son, Rio), adding a bit of pan-fried tempeh for some good old-fashioned protein. Beyond this surely warming and grounding soup, recipes I’d still like to try from the Vedge cookbook include a dish of peeled-open, marinated, and grilled portobello stems known as anticuchos; the Napa Cabbage Funky Kimchi Stew; the Warm Ramp Hummus; and the Whole Roasted Carrots with Black Lentils and Green Harissa.

If you enjoying playing around in the kitchen with involved recipes that feature the best produce the earth has to offer, then I would highly recommend picking up a (digital!) copy of the Vedge cookbook. With that, I shall leave you, dear readers, with the simple, Spanish-inspired dish I created to accompany the empanadas featured above. Enjoy.

Spanish Roasted Brassicas—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Serves 2-4.


1 small/medium head cauliflower, chopped into smallish florets
2 small/1 medium head broccoli, chopped into smallish florets
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp sherry vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the cauliflower and broccoli florets with the oil, paprika, and sherry vinegar to coat.

Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until the brassicas are tender and golden-brown. Serve.

Until next time, Ali.

Catering Adventures: An Autumnal Menu for Fifteen

As the fall semester nears its conclusion, I find myself in the midst of a catering quasi-business. My position as co-president of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) has developed to include (and I’m thrilled that it has) the responsibility of event-catering alongside speaker-coordinating, meeting-facilitating, campaign-organizing, and conference-planning. Indeed, in the past three months, I’ve provided quality vegan grub for two campus lectures hosted by VARC: the first delivered by the ubiquitous Carol J. Adams (author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, don’t-cha know), the second by thought-provoker extraordinaire James McWilliams (can you say vegan pizza buffet?).

Most excitingly, my burgeoning catering skills have begun to elicit requests from other student organizations to provide fabulous animal-free goodies for their events. Doing so works to cultivate my ideal role as an animal activist of opening individuals’ hearts and minds to veganism through bountiful, flavorful, satisfying, and creative plant-based foods. Not to mention, it offers me a legitimate excuse to devote my time and energy to experimenting with new recipes and cooking techniques…for a profit, no less.

My first non-VARC catering request came from the Queer Coalition of Vassar College (QCVC), who planned to host a spoken-word poetry night with the two queer activist poets (and gluten-free vegans) Alok and Janani who comprise Darkmatter, and wanted to host a small dinner for the artists after the event (funny how many individuals who fight for other forms of social justice also lead a vegan lifestyle…). Check out a couple of Darkmatter’s powerful performances here.

Stipulating only that I not use any walnuts and include a kale salad, QCVC bestowed upon me full reign over the dinner menu, with a budget of “not ridiculously expensive.” Turning to my infamous 49-page “Recipes to Try” Word document, I formulated an autumn-inspired catering menu to satisfy the vegans in the group and wow the non-vegans.

The meal began with a succulent, creamy Parsnip-Hazelnut Soup, inspired by the Parsnip-Chestnut Bisque in the newly released (and positively magical) Vedge cookbook. With only olive oil, onions, parsnips, hazelnuts, coconut milk, salt, and pepper as ingredients, the soup highlighted the sweet, earthy flavor of the parsnips, accentuated further by the toasty richness of the hazelnuts. Though I would have loved to create the original soup recipe with chestnuts, the natural foods store I visited for catering ingredients did not carry them. Thus, I turned to nuts of a similar sweetness as chestnuts, and ended up immensely pleased with the modified soup’s final flavor. Served in a slow-cooker, the soup remained steaming hot throughout the entire dinner.

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To provide textural contrast to the smooth soup, I roasted up two trays of chickpeas coated in maple syrup and cinnamon, inspired by My Whole Food Life. Proteinous croutons, no?

QCVC catering (7)

Next to the soup sat a big ol’ bowl of kale salad. Though I didn’t follow an exact recipe for the salad, I did draw inspiration from this salad featured on Choosing Raw. My method of salad creation follows: cut three bunches of lacinato kale into chiffonade; massaged said kale with the flesh of two avocados, two tablespoons of olive oil, four tablespoons of maple syrup, and two lemon’s worth of juice; stirred into the massaged kale one kabocha squash’s worth of roasted squash cubes and 1 1/2 cups of toasted pumpkin seeds. The resulting salad featured an amalgamation of flavors and textures, with the melt-on-your-tongue, succulent squash; the crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds; the rich, creamy avocado; the complexly sweet maple syrup; and the tanginly acidic lemon. Honestly, though, how could a dish that incorporates kabocha squash, maple syrup, kale, and avocado not inspire gastronomic nirvana?

QCVC catering (1)

As per the request of my VARC co-president Katie, the meal’s vegetable side dish comprised of meltingly tender roasted sweet potato fries, accompanied by the oh-so garlicky cashew aioli from Christy Morgan’s cookbook “Blissful Bites.” One spoonful of this aioli and it became all I wanted to put in my mouth for the rest of my life (well, until I remembered kale…and roasted brussels sprouts…and kombucha…okay, the sentiment didn’t last very long). I only wish that my blender could have pureed the aioli into a smoother consistency, though I suppose I’ll have to wait for perfectly silky cashew creams until I receive a Vitamix for my college graduation gift (some students ask for cars, Ali prefers blenders).

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Because I’m familiar with the sheer joy of encountering good-quality gluten-free bread, I wanted to bake up an artisan loaf for Alok and Janani. I had seen this recipe for Farmhouse Seed Bread circulating all over Pinterest and garnering rave reviews for months, and yearned to experiment with it myself. Since the natural food store I visited did not carry teff or sweet rice flour, I substituted equal amounts of buckwheat and tapioca flours, and experienced fabulous results. The boule featured a crackly crust and a moist, dense interior—ideal for soaking up the Parsnip-Hazelnut Soup.

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Finally, to round out the meal, I made the dessert that never fails to impress any eater, no matter how picky or averse to veganism: a raw cheesecake. With a silky smooth filling and a simultaneously crunchy, chewy, and caramely sweet crust, it’s no wonder that of all of the catered dishes, only the cheesecake did not produce at least a small amount of leftovers. I employed this basic raw cheesecake recipe, layering thin slices of crisp apples on top along with a scant drizzling of maple syrup.

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The dinner guests offered only positive feedback about all of the dishes. I can hardly wait until my next catering gig, and in the meantime, will plan to engage in some publicity measures in order to gain attention for my…business? Wish me luck!

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #18: Dinner on Empty & Dinner on Full

vegan mofo 2013

Every month, Ferry House experiences a complete reversal of our food supply levels. As the weeks after our most recent bulk food order wear on; as our stock of dried chickpeas, brown rice, and peanut butter wanes; as the 21 house members clean out the refrigerator’s veggie-laden shelves within mere hours of grocery shopping, Ferry members must employ their utmost culinary intuition in order to adequately nourish themselves on the lone eggplant, bag of sweet potatoes, and dregs of lentils left in the house.

Obviously, these so-called “food shortages” don’t actually prove dire, seeing as all of us Ferries can easily access campus dining and off-campus grocery stores. I would never even fathom suggesting that any house member actually faces a danger in the kind-of-lack-ish of food in Ferry that occurs every so often, for to do so would essentially crap privilege all over the groups of people who live in food deserts and harbor legitimate worry regarding the origins of their next meal.

In any case, I thought that comparing Ferry meals made from an abundance of supplies with those made with a dwindled stock would prove fairly interesting. Ooh! Let’s play a game: guess which meal came from empty, and which came from full.

Meal #1: Vinegar-brined roasted potatoes, curried cauliflower casserole, tamari-ginger green beans, millet, and baby kale, all sprinkled with nutritional yeast (courtesy of darlings Gabe and Tim).

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Meal #2: Gluten-free flatbread, farmers’ market cherry tomatoes, curried lentil stew with garlic and carrots, and roasted brussels sprouts (provided by the always fabulous Noah and Lanbo).

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And here’s where you contemplate.

And here’s where you guess.

And the reveal…

Meal #1 came from a largely empty pantry and fridge, while Meal #2 came from a house stuffed full of newly purchased groceries and bulk supplies. If you’re so inclined, be sure to leave a comment professing your guess.

If perhaps you’re curious to know what sort of food sustains a 21-person vegan co-op for a month, below I’ve listed a number of the supplies included in our most recent bulk order:

1.) 24 packages of tempeh
2.) 25 lbs each of brown rice, quinoa, navy beans, and black beans
3.) 64 cartons of non-dairy milk (a mix of almond and soy)
4.) A 9-lb container of crunchy peanut butter
5.) 12 jars of tahini
6.) 12 cans of coconut milk
7.) 5 lbs each of almonds and dried figs
8.) 6 bottles each of balsamic vinegar and agave nectar

Quite understandably, house excitement surrounding bulk delivery parallels that of a house member’s birthday. Ah, bulk. How I love you so.

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #16: Pinto Beans n’ Greens Stew, Rosemary-Sage Roasted Root Veggies, & Seasoned Millet

vegan mofo 2013

Last night I once again assumed the role of Ferry Dinner Cook, along with my dear housemate Allie. I began my culinary task with the goal of employing in our meal as many of the fast wilting green leafies, as well as the underused root vegetables, in the refrigerator as possible. It seemed to me that the greens (an amalgamation of kale, collards, and leaves from carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes) would marry well in a stew with the pinto beans that I had set to soak that morning, while the roots (a mix of turnips, butternut and kabocha squash, beets, and sweet potatoes) would best showcase their comforting succulence in caramelized, roasted form, accentuated by fresh rosemary and sage.

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Though I intended to recreate this recipe for Garlicky White Bean Stew with Kale, a couple of unexpected factors complicated this task:
1.) I discovered a surprising lack of garlic in the Ferry kitchen last night.
2.) The Ferry pantry currently houses only pinto beans, garbanzos, and lentils, with no mention of white beans (though this will soon change with the bulk order delivered this Thursday).
3.) I mistook the jar of cayenne for that of paprika, thus imparting a spicier kick to the stew than I had originally intended (darn Ferry’s unlabeled spice rack!).

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Despite these setbacks, the stew turned out as a hearty, comforting, and immensely nourishing dish that harbored a nice depth of flavor thanks to the caramelized onions that simmered with the beans, as well as the multiplicity of bold greens. Since one would have to either tremendously undercook or burn to a crisp roasted root vegetables in order to detract from their deliciousness, that aspect of dinner proved predictably perfect (points for alliteration). The millet provided a bit of a surprise for my diners, who did not expect the punch of umami that pervaded the unassuming side dish, thanks to the generous sprinklings of nutritional yeast, cumin, and tamari that I mixed into the creamy cooked grain.

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As I always do when I cook Ferry dinner, last night I felt honored to provide a scrumptious and satisfying meal to the 21 thoughtful, generous, kind, and vivacious individuals with whom I live. I’ve recently realized that aiding others serves to improve my own mood, as showcased when I sought advice from my Ferry room neighbor, ended up working through his own difficulties, and left his room sharing a sense of complete uplift. Once again, Ferry offered its constant reminder of the strong power of community, especially a community largely revolving around wholesome food that minimizes harm to all beings.

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Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #12: Chickpea-Tomato Soup & Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

vegan mofo 2013

I often reference here on the ol’ blog my lifelong cultivated, deeply meaningful relationship with food—even before adopting a vegan lifestyle, I viewed my personal food choices as profoundly political acts, votes against an exploitative agricultural system dominated by a corrupt corporate-governmental alliance and for a mode of food production that nourished the earth and all of its inhabitants. Hell, I felt like Wonder Woman (the not overly sexualized version reinforcing the patriarchy) every time I shopped at the farmers’ market, kicking the butts of the GMO and pharmaceutical industries with my three bunches of organic lacinato kale. My food activism has become much more nuanced and effective since the days in which I understood supporting local farmers as the utmost act of social justice, and in turn, my appreciation for unprocessed, unpolluted, unchemicalized (it can be a word, don’t worry about it), unexploitative food has only intensified.

dinner 1

Though this omnipresent connection with food prompts me to recognize my every meal as celebratory events (even the packed lunches I shovel into my mouth between classes), some meals inspire in me a more acute sense of nourishment—both internal and external—than others. Last night’s Ferry Dinner offered one of these special meals.

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While yesterday boasted a rather balmy temperature of 80 degrees, it also featured gloomy skies and an overall atmosphere of grayness. Thus, when Ferries Robyn and Matt presented the house with a dinner of steaming chickpea-tomato soup and rosemary roasted potatoes, I experienced a feeling of comfort akin to an embrace from an old friend. Since Robyn set the soup to simmer about two hours before dinnertime, the wafting aroma of savory herbs vastly ameliorated the task of reading rather dry articles of China’s economic development, and only contributed to the sense of fulfillment engendered by my first spoonful of the soup.

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Robyn and Matt’s soup featured home-simmered chickpeas, carrots with their greens, celery, mushrooms, and herbs in a tomato broth, while the roasted potatoes harbored a strong flavor of fresh rosemary, as well as an impeccable balance between creaminess and crunchiness. I honestly could not offer this meal any higher praise, and feel indescribably lucky to have enjoyed it among the most caring, kind, witty, and thoughtful housemates in existence. Joy consumes me every day that I live in Ferry House.

Do you have a space in which you feel profoundly at home? Is there a particular food or dish that contributes to this sense?

Until next time, Ali.

If I Were to Open My Own Vegan Restaurant…

At not more than seven years of age, I typed up a rainbow-hued list of menu items (including “French toast sticks” and “peanut butter sandwich”), stuck it inside a three-ring binder, and scrawled “Seiter’s Place” in Sharpie across the front. At age thirteen, the pique of my Food Network fandom, I received (facetious, I’m sure) confirmation from my mother that I could attend culinary school as long as I earned my undergraduate degree first. After going vegan in my sophomore year of high school, I jokingly entertained requests from friends that I serve as their personal chef and health coach. In other words, I’ve long viewed the culinary arts as a legitimate and desirable career option to pursue.

Fully intending to devote the remainder of my professional and personal life toward bettering the lives of animals, promoting veganism, and fostering a more equitable worldwide society, I envision before me a sea of career paths: nonprofit management; grassroots activism; magazine, book, and blog authorship; restaurant work; the list continues. I’m steadfastly certain, however, that my primary livelihood will include two aspects: writing and cooking.

Thus, at some point in my life (perhaps after writing my first book on the links between plant-based diets and egalitarian societies, or after launching a nonprofit devoted to dismantling corporate seed-patenting and winning back the rights of farmers in the non-Western world to grow their own food…or whatever), I would wholeheartedly love to open a vegan café/community bookstore that hosts social justice-related speakers, book and discussion groups, yoga workshops, and various other educational outreach events—kind of a Busboys-and-Poets-esque type thing. Engaging in such a project would allow me to combine my passions of social justice activism, the written word, and culinary creativity in a meaningful manner, with the potential to reach, educate, and inspire a generous amount of individuals.

I’ll iron out all of the details later, but for now, I’d like to provide you with a working menu for the seasonally inspired Farmers’ Market Vegan Café.

Breakfast and Brunch (available all day)

Trio of Granolas with Accompanying Milks
Apricot-lavender granola with lavender-vanilla almond milk, berry-lemongrass granola with coconut-cashew milk, sweet corn-thyme granola with maple soymilk
*Raw trio available upon request

Waffle-nanza Platter
Gluten-free sweet potato waffles, maple tempeh bacon, and coconut-braised kale

Fruity Waffle o’ the Day
Changes depending upon fruit seasonality, always served with coconut mascarpone and infused maple syrup

Raw Spirulina-Banana Crepes
Filled with cashew whipped cream and fresh fruit coulis

Seasonal Vegetable Tofu Scramble
Seasonal veggies and greens scrambled with tofu in a curried peanut sauce.

Seasonal Smoothies
Changes depending upon fruit seasonality, favorites include blueberry-basil and peach-raspberry-ginger
*Add a topping of your choice of granolas for an extra charge
*Add kale to any smoothie at no extra charge

Fresh Bakery Selection
Includes muffins, sweet breads, fruity crumble bars, and granola bars
*Raw options available; all baked goods are free of refined sugar and flour, and are sweetened with either dates or local maple syrup


House-Made Bread Basket
Served with a selection of seasonal hummus and pesto

Cheese & Cracker Plate
A selection of house-made nut cheeses served with seasonal crackers
*Raw crackers available upon request

Herbed Garden Gazpacho
Topped with roasted chickpea “croutons”
Add a side of house-made bread for an extra charge

Toasty Kale & Coconut Summer Rolls
With lemongrass tofu and sweet almond or peanut dipping sauce

Raw Nori Rolls
With seasonal veggies, sprouts, coconut meat, and sweet almond or cashew dipping sauce


*Add seared tofu or tempeh to any salad for an extra charge

Big ol’ Farmers’ Market Salad
Mixed greens, alfalfa sprouts, seasonal veggies, chickpeas, and quinoa or brown rice, all tossed in house-made Liquid Gold Dressing

Tangy Kale Salad
Kale, seasonal veggies, raisins, and sunflower seeds tossed in maple-mustard dressing

Spinach & Wild Rice Salad
With almonds and tarragon-mustard dressing

Purple Potato and Haricot Vert Salad
With red onions and miso-mustard dressing

Fall Medley Salad
Brown rice with pomegranate-infused roasted butternut squash and cauliflower, toasted hazelnuts, and baby arugula


All non-raw sandwiches served on house-baked bread (gluten-free available) with your choice of side salad, baked sweet potato fries, or house-made root veggie chips (raw or baked)

Roasted Brussels Sprout Grilled Cheese

Caprese Sandwich
House-made vegan mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and basil

“Chickpea of the Sea” Sandwich or Lettuce Wrap
A delectable mash of chickpeas, avocado, and dulse flakes

Raw Garden Vegetable Sandwich
Scallion cashew cream cheese, marinated mushrooms, and butter lettuce, served with house-made raw root veggie chips


Fig & Hazelnut Pizza
With caramelized onions and basil sauce on a raw buckwheat crust

Socca o’ the Day
Seasonally rotating French-style chickpea pancake

Bowl o’ the Day
Seasonal veggies, steamed or sautéed leafy green, whole grain, baked tempeh or tofu, and dressing

Miso-Maple Roasted Eggplant & Kale Tacos
With lentils, gingered cashew cream, and mango salsa


On-Tap House-Brewed Kombucha
Seasonal flavors

Green Juice o’ the Day
Seasonal flavors

Hot Tea
Selection of organic & fair-trade brews

Herb-Infused Iced Tea
Seasonal flavors


Raw Cheesecake o’ the Day
Changes depending upon fruit seasonality

Chocolatey Pudding
Carob, avocado, and banana pureed into a smooth pudding

Trio of Seasonal Ice Creams
*Raw selection available

Raw Cookie Dough “Blizzard”
Banana “soft-serve” with raw cookie dough bites and seasonal fruit swirl

Until next time, Ali.

A Veg-anza in New Paltz

Last weekend, instead of taking the train into New York City to see my beloved mother (and now fellow vegan!), I invited her up to Poughkeepsie in honor of Vassar’s annual spring Families Weekend. While we did not engage in any of the (thrilling, I’m sure) planned campus activities, my mother and I enjoyed ourselves immensely by paying a visit to the adorable gem of a town known as New Paltz. A mere 30-minute drive from Poughkeepsie, New Paltz functions essentially as a much more thriving, hipper city than the 18th most miserable city in America that Vassar calls home (sigh). In keeping with the town’s hip young atmosphere, New Paltz boasts an all-vegan cafe, a vegan fair-trade chocolate shop, a quaint health foods co-op, plenty of vegan items on many restaurant menus, and a grand slew of unique handmade jewelry stores, clothing boutiques, and antique shops. Needless to say, I wholeheartedly wish that I could gather up the Vassar campus and relocate it to New Paltz, but as that seems rather impossible, I’ll settle for weekend visits to the happy little town.

Upon first arriving in New Paltz, my mother and I sought lunch at a traditional Japanese restaraunt called Gomen Kudasai. The noodle shop features an entire vegan menu, as well as plenty of gluten-free items, including mung bean thread and yam noodles. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to experience the full extent of Gomen Kudasai’s offerings, as the restaurant only offered their brunch menu during our visit. Regardless, my mother and I found plenty of vegan options, as specially denoted by helpful symbols on the menu. We began our meal with a complimentary bowl of always-satisfying salted edamame, followed by a simple and elegant triangular prism of brown rice and seaweed known as onigiri. For her entree, my mother opted for a stir-fry of udon noodles, chewy browned tofu, and succulent vegetables in a delightful gingery sauce. As for myself, I ordered an incredibly comforting bowl of kaki ten soup with gluten-free noodles, which comprised of slippery, chewy, semi-transparent noodles and crispy shredded veggies in an unctuous umami broth. All of Gomen Kudasai’s fare tasted fresh, simple, and quite thoughtfully prepared, though it did verge on the overly salty side.

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After contentedly filling ourselves with noodles and other Japanese goodies, my mother and I set out on the gorgeously sunny day to explore the town of New Paltz. Our ventures brought us first to the much-acclaimed Lagusta’s Luscious—a vegan artisanal chocolate shop with a commitment to social justice, environmentalism, and animal rights. Indeed, the lovely and hugely talented ladies at Lagusta’s source all of their ingredients from small farms and producers in and around New Paltz, package all of their chocolates in 100% post-consumer recycled paper boxes and packing materials, use only fairly traded chocolate certified not produced with child/slave labor, and often donate to various worthy causes including animal sanctuaries and feminist organizations. The shop’s proprietor, Lagusta Yearwood, also just contributed an insightful and inspiring essay to the Defiant Daughters anthology entitled “Eat Chocolate, Have Faith in Women,” which she read at the book’s launch at Bluestockings Bookstore in NYC, where I had the honor of meeting and chatting with her.

The Lagusta's Luscious storefront.

The Lagusta’s Luscious storefront.

Greeted by my favorite professor’s wife, who works at Lagusta’s Luscious and refers to me as her “vegan sister,” my mother and I gazed in awe at the tantalizing and uniquely flavored chocolate truffles and bars lining the blue-and-brown walls of the tiny shop. Yearning to spoil me after not seeing me since spring break (that’s my mother for ya), my mother eagerly gifted me an eight-piece box of assorted chocolate truffles, a smoky corn-on-the-cob chocolate bar, and a block of Lagusta’s housemade chickpea-kidney bean tempeh (I know, right?). From the glass-plated truffle case, I chose to include in my assorted chocolate box a Rosemary Sea Salt Caramel, a Sea Salt Shiitake Truffle, a Caramelized Onion and Chipotle Truffle, a Coriander-Beet Truffle, a Fennel-Apple Truffle, a Grapefruit Cream, a Macadamia Maui Vanilla Cream with Chamomile, and a Raspberry Balsamic Truffle. Um, can you say heaven on earth?

Every spice imaginable to inject oodles of flavor in Lagusta's decadent chocolate.

Every spice imaginable to inject oodles of flavor in Lagusta’s decadent chocolate.

The April 2013 Chocolate-of-the-Month: a vegan "bacon" bar filled with shiitake-miso-yuba caramel.

The April 2013 Chocolate-of-the-Month: a vegan “bacon” bar filled with shiitake-miso-yuba caramel.

Two chocolate barks: a Sea Salt and Almond Slate, and a Fig and Fennel Bark.

Two chocolate barks: a Sea Salt and Almond Slate, and a Fig and Fennel Bark.

My very own box of chocolate truffles.

My very own box of chocolate truffles.

Homemade chickpea-kidney bean tempeh.

Homemade chickpea-kidney bean tempeh.

After bading goodbye to Lagusta’s rather magical shop, my mother and I meandered around New Paltz for the better part of the afternoon, peeking inside and browsing nearly every quaint little storefront in the small town, including a shop called Scarborough Fair that specialized in artisan infused oils and vinegars. There, my mother insisted upon buying me a 4-oz bottle each of avocado oil and pomegranate balsamic vinegar (hey, I’m not complaining), but they also boasted other intriguing varieties like porcini mushroom extra virgin olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar. I hope to experiment with the avocado oil and pomegranate balsamic to produce a couple winning recipes for the blog in the near future, so keep an eye out for those.

Oil and vinegar jugs at Scarborough Fair.

Oil and vinegar jugs at Scarborough Fair.

Our wandering also brought my mother and me to Inquiring Minds—an independent bookstore that, incidentally, will host a reading by three contributors to the Defiant Daughters anthology, including Lagusta Yearwood herself, this Saturday at 7pm (stop by if you’re in the area!). Inside the bookstore, I excitedly discovered an entire display table devoted to vegan cookbooks and animal rights literature, including the cult classic The Sexual Politics of Meat by vegan pioneer Carol Adams. With her feminist background and newfound veganism, my mother immediately became enthralled with the book’s cover and premise. After purchasing the book, my mother and I agreed that I would read it first while at Vassar, hand it off to her when she comes to help me relocate to D.C. for the summer, and discuss the book’s still groundbreaking ideas once we had both finished reading it. I can’t wait to start paging through the book that has enlightened so many individuals to the unavoidable intersections of veganism and feminism.

Vegan & animal rights display table at Inquiring Minds bookstore.

Vegan & animal rights display table at Inquiring Minds bookstore.

I planned on accompanying my mother back to New York City to spend Sunday with both of my parents, so before departing from New Paltz, my mother and I picked up a dinner to enjoy on the train ride home at organic and local vegan deli, bakery, juice & smoothie bar Karma Road. Though I didn’t obtain photos of the actual food that my mother and I ordered (snapping pictures on moving trains does not translate to quality photography), I did document the deli case, which boasted gluten-free veggie burgers, coleslaw, kale pizza with Daiya cheese, mixed vegetable curry, braised greens, and spelt sweet potato biscuits among other offerings. For our to-go dinners, my mother ordered a hummus wrap and a small portion of coleslaw from the deli case, while I chose the Karma Combo salad—kale, sunflower sprouts, carrot, celery, tomato, and roasted peppers in a tahini dressing—accompanied by two logs of hearty and sweet apple juice-glazed tempeh. Followed by a piece each of my smoky corn-on-the-cob chocolate bar, our meal from Karma Road provided immense satisfaction on the train ride to NYC.

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As my mother and I strolled around New Paltz, we discussed the pervasive feeling of great clarity achieved after adopting a vegan lifestyle, the abhorrently corrupt nature of the meat-industrial complex and food corporations, and cruelty-free cosmetic brands. I never could have fathomed that my own mother of all people would find herself caught up in the same issues that I hold near and dear to my heart, and feel so unbelievably greatful to now call my mother an ally in the vegan movement. To those individuals feeling frustrated with their own family members who haven’t yet found their vegan calling, I’d encourage you not to lose hope, to always speak to those family members with patience, kindness, and compassion, and to continue to embody your own values in your everyday life. Even if your loved ones don’t adopt a vegan lifestyle in this lifetime, you can rest confident that you at least shifted their consciousness, if just a smidgen, to a more compassionate mode of existence. At the end of the day, I’d call that successful advocacy.

Until next time, Ali.

What I Ate Wednesday #66: My Last WIAW

Yes, I understand that another “What I Ate Wednesday” constituted my last post, as well. Yes, I understand that recipes, ethical/philosophical musings, and restaurant reviews serve as vastly more intriguing topics than my weekly eats do (perhaps some of you may argue to the contrary, but that’s simply my humble opinion). However, in the midst of authoring an important piece for a vegan-related, non-blogging outlet as well as beginning my second essay in my three-part series exposing Michael Pollan’s ulterior motives, I’ve devoted much of my intellectual/writing-related energies toward venues other than my beloved blog. Fear not though, dear readers, for I hope to soon channel these energies back to the world of the vegan blogosphere. Once that happens, I intend to no longer participate in this weekly meal recap as I have for 66 past Wednesdays, for I’d prefer for my blog to cultivate a more professional atmosphere fostering intellectual discussion among innovative recipes. Hopefully, the elimination of What I Ate Wednesdays from my blog will allow me to provide more intriguing content on a more regular basis. So now, for the last time, please enjoy another round of my stupendously intriguing meals.

Breakfast: A breakfast salad of baby spinach, amaranth, brown rice, goji berries, wild blueberries, and chia seeds tossed in a dressing of plain unsweetened soy yogurt, homemade sprouted almond butter, and Amazing Grass Green Superfoods Powder, sprinkled with the contents of one capsule of Rainbow Light’s Advanced Enzyme Systems digestive enzymes.

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Breakfast Checklist: Protein—soy yogurt, sprouted almond butter, chia seeds. Whole Grain—brown rice, amaranth. Fruit—goji berries, blueberries. Leafy Green—baby spinach. Superfoods—goji berries, chia seeds, Amazing Grass powder.

Morning Tea: Rooibos Red Tea from Alvita.

Lunch: An open-faced sandwich of a lentil-brown rice-roasted sweet potato & broccoli burger on top of a brown rice cake slathered with tahini, sauerkraut, and dulse seaweed flakes, accompanied by a bowl of mushroom, leek, and spinach soup sprinkled with nutritional yeast.

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Meal Checklist: Protein—beluga lentils, tahini. Whole Grain—brown rice. Vegetables/Fruit—sweet potato, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, spinach, mushrooms. Leafy Greens—spinach, broccoli, cabbage in sauerkraut.

Afternoon Beverage: Kukicha Twig Tea from Eden Organics.

A bottle of GT’s Kombucha in Cosmic Cranberry flavor.

Dinner: A breakfast-dinner of savory Sweet Potato Belgian Waffles (made with my new, very own waffle iron!) topped with Coconut-Braised Kale and served alongside strips of Tempeh Bacon, courtesy of Kathy Patalsky—my biweekly dinner contribution to the Ferry household.

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Meal Checklist: Protein—chickpea flour, fava flour, tempeh. Whole Grain—sorghym flour. Vegetables—kale, garlic, onions, sweet potato. Leafy Greens—kale.

After-Dinner Beverage: Traditional Medicinals’ Organic Eater’s Digest tea.

Happy WIAW!

Until next time, Ali.

What I Ate Wednesday #62

Breakfast: A green smoothie of 1/2 a jonagold apple, 1/2 of a frozen banana, a handful of frozen blueberries, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp hemp seeds, 1 tsp maca, 1/2 tsp spirulina, 1 tbsp goji berries, 3 leaves of kale, and 1/2 cup homemade almond milk, topped with a half-cupful of my latest granola creation featuring GF rolled oats, raw buckwheat groats, unsweetened shredded coconut, flaxseed meal, pecans, and walnuts coated in a puree of apples, dried apricots, almond extract, cardamom, cinnamon, and coconut oil.

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Breakfast Checklist: Protein—chia seeds, hemp seeds, almond milk, flaxseed meal, pecans, walnuts. Whole Grain—GF rolled oats, buckwheat. Fruit—apple, banana, blueberries, goji berries, dried apricots. Leafy Green—kale. Superfood—hemp seeds, chia seeds, spirulina, goji berries, maca, flaxseed meal.

Morning Tea: Eden Organic Genmaicha Tea.

Lunch: A deconstructed salad of sorts (perhaps “lettuce wraps” would serve as the correct term?) of four large leaves of lettuce schmeared with hummus and topped with quinoa, celery, mushrooms, sauerkraut, and dulse flakes, all drizzled with Liquid Gold Dressing.

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Meal Checklist: Protein—chickpeas and tahini in hummus. Whole Grain—quinoa. Vegetables—mushrooms, celery. Leafy Greens—lettuce, cabbage in sauerkraut, dulse flakes.

Afternoon Beverage: Choice Organic White Peony tea.

A bottle of GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha in Hibiscus (Botanic No. 7) flavor.

Dinner: A comforting and astoundingly flavorful soup of lentils and split peas cooked down into a creamy puree with mushrooms, celery, leeks, and cubes of tofu, served over a bed of wilted kale and topped with a brown rice-black bean pilaf as well as a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.

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Thanks to Franny and Robyn for anoter scrumptious Ferry dinner!

Meal Checklist: Protein—lentils, split peas, tofu, black bean. Whole Grain—brown rice. Vegetables—mushrooms, celery, leeks. Leafy Greens—kale.

After-Dinner Beverage: Traditional Medicinals’ Organic Eater’s Digest tea.

Happy WIAW!

Until next time, Ali.