Saffron Cantaloupe Butter | The Importance of Calling Each Other Out

***I want to make it perfectly clear to my readers that individuals’ names previously listed in this post were included in error. I was writing from limited information, and inadvertently confused individual names in this post. I apologize for any confusion or harm that this has caused. In the future, before posting about sensitive issues, I will make sure to fact-check more thoroughly. If readers ever catch an error in my writing–whether mundane or otherwise–I would hugely appreciate it if you brought those errors to my attention, as I operate without a team of fact-checkers behind me. If you have any questions or concerns about this incident, please feel free to contact me using my blog’s Contact page.


Before launching into today’s post and recipe, I’d like to congratulate Renee McEneany, the winner of my giveaway for a copy of the Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats cookbook!

In late August, I had the pleasure of attending the New York City premiere of the hugely important new documentary Cowspiracy, which investigates why the vast majority of major environmental organizations fail to acknowledge animal agriculture despite the plethora of information that suggests that the industry constitutes the top contributor to global climate change. Active members of NYC’s vegan scene comprised most of the audience, and all seemed to share an air of understanding and camaraderie that occurs when like-minded folk congregate. The audience laughed, groaned, and cried at largely the same moments throughout the film, united under the cause of animal activism.

One interview in the film features a woman from the Animal Agriculture Alliance – a common enemy, if you will, for the audience. First focusing on her face, the camera then pans out for a wide shot…at which point the entire theater began to titter. “Of course she’s fat! She sits around eating animal products all day! Tee hee! Fat people are morally inferior!” I suddenly experienced a very strong urge to flee from my seat and far away from that AMC.

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 Fat-shaming abounds throughout the animal rights movement, evinced in cartoons and advertisements that focus on vegan diets as tools of weight loss, thus equating thinness with health. Though I could devote an entire post any beyond to this topic, I want to instead use it as a jumping-off point for exploring another issue: calling each other out(For thoughtful, critical discussions of fat-shaming within the animal rights movement, check out The Thinking Vegan and Choosing Raw).

Speaking out against the multiple forms of human oppression that exist within the animal rights movement – such as ableism in the form of fat-shaming – won’t make anyone comfortable, and certainly won’t win anyone friends among the higher-ups of mainstream animal advocacy organizations. But I would sincerely like to see a greater willingness among animal rights activists to critique problematic behavior within our own movement. Developing such a willingness first involves educating oneself about intra-movement oppressions like racism, sexism, ableism, and classism, reminding oneself not to become defensive while doing so. From there, that willingness to engage in constructive critique requires an understanding that building social consciousness is an uncomfortable process, since it demands a questioning of default behaviors and beliefs, and that even if speaking out means adversary feelings now, it has the powerful potential to translate into a more equitable movement in the future.

Since we as ethical vegans have already undergone the process of questioning default behaviors and beliefs by living a vegan lifestyle to the extent possible in our very non-vegan world, it seems to me that we find ourselves in a more experienced position than most to apply that same level of self-reflexivity to our positions of privilege as a largely white, economically well-off, fit-focused movement with men in most leadership positions.

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Though I see this intra-movement critique happening in regards to our tactics of animal activism – such as the infamous liberation vs. welfare debate or the recent backlash against HSUS’ sponsorship of a meat-eating festival – I see much less critical engagement with the marginalization of women, people of color, and differently abled folks involved in the vegan movement. For example, few individuals or groups speak out against the sexual abuse perpetrated by males in movement positions of power, even though such abuse unfortunately proves a common occurrence (please see the redaction at the top of this post). *** Similarly, only a handful of folks voice the problems of asserting that “being vegan is so easy!” and “you can get vegan food anywhere nowadays!,” pointing out the lack of understanding of racialized food access that these statements suggest.

Individuals and organizations like pattrice jones at VINE Sanctuary, A. Breeze Harper at The Sistah Vegan Project, lauren Ornelas at the Food Empowerment Project, Corey Lee Wrenn and Cheryl Abbate at Vegan Feminist Network, and more that you can find on my Resource page have done fantastic work in critically engaging the animal rights movement in dialogue about the oppressions our movement currently perpetuates. I want to see more of this. We need to see more of this, otherwise our goal of animal liberation will fail miserably as we continue to demean the marginalized groups that comprise integral aspects of our struggle, and as non-vegans continue to correctly view the mainstream animal rights movement as racist, sexist, classist, and ableist.

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So let’s talk, write, and engage more with each other about the fat-shaming that happens in AR, the sexual abuse that happens in AR, the white supremacy that happens in AR. Because we can’t combat those problems without recognizing them.

There also comes a point when one must recognize that a cantaloupe is too ripe to eat fresh. One can either deny the cantaloupe’s over-ripeness and suffer through forkfuls of mealy melon, or critically engage with that cantaloupe to turn it into something beautiful. The recipe you’ll find below is that something beautiful. Because saffron is cost-prohibitive for many of us (I only had some on-hand from a gift I received), you can most certainly substitute cardamom or even cinnamon for the saffron. Your tastebuds won’t know the difference, though the hue of your final butter won’t prove as vibrant (OH NO!!!).

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Saffron Cantaloupe Butter

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups cubed very ripe cantaloupe

1/3 cup brown rice syrup

Juice of 1 orange

1/2 tsp saffron (or cardamom)

Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium-large, non-reactive saucepan. Let the mixture macerate for 1-2 hours, allowing the juices to release.

After the cantaloupe has macerated, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and boil for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, keeping an eye on the mixture to ensure that it doesn’t boil over.

Blend the mixture until smooth either with an immersion blender or by carefully transferring to a standing blender. Return the puree to the saucepan, set it over medium heat, and allow to simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until it becomes very thick.

The butter will keep well in an airtight container in a refrigerator, or you could multiply the size of this recipe and use proper canning procedures for long-term storage.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Kale-Cranberry Pilaf | Guest Post from Lindsay Greenfield of Vegan 101 Girl

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Before I get into today’s extra special guest post, I’d like to make two announcements:
1.) On Episode 238 of the Our Hen House podcast, I share a review of five unrefined, versatile, vegan sweeteners to incorporate into your whole-foods eating habits. Maple syrup, coconut nectar, date sugar and more! I’m honored to be featured alongside the powerful intersectional activist Mickey Z, who just recently published his book on activism entitled Occupy this Book. Check out the episode here!
2.) I’ve selected the winner of my giveaway of 4 pints of DF Mavens vegan ice cream! Huge congratulations to Sharon Smithline; I’m certain you’ll fall madly in love with this ice cream. 

Onto the guest post! I’m ecstatic to welcome vegan blogger, health coach, and animal cruelty investigator extraordinaire Lindsay Greenfield  of Vegan 101 Girl to Farmers Market Vegan. As she’ll tell you, Lindsay and I met three summers ago in a vegetarian cooking course at a culinary academy in my aunt’s longtime home of Florence, Italy (to which I just recently had the pleasure of returning!). Little did I know that we would reunite virtually after discovering each other on the vegan blogosphere. Astounded by this chance re-encounter, I immediately invited Lindsay to contribute a guest post to my humble corner of the internet, and am thrilled to share her and her mouthwatering Kale-Cranberry Pilaf with you all. Make sure to follow Lindsay on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.

Also be sure to check out my guest post over at Lindsay’s blog, which features concurrent recipes for Tofu “Egg” Salad Sandwiches with Avocado, and Buffalo-Maple Cauliflower.

It amazes me how life sometimes reconnects people with each other, even years after first meeting. When Alessandra and I first met three years ago, I remember thinking how strong she was. We were the only vegans in our vegetarian cooking class during a study abroad in beautiful Florence, Italy. I could barely call myself a vegan though, as I had just committed to veganism before heading abroad, and I found myself frequently giving in and gobbling all things egg, cheese, and milk. Alessandra meanwhile would give a firm “no” to tasting all the cheesy, eggy treats our class whipped up. It wasn’t until I came home from that trip that it clicked and I realized I could never ever eat animal products again. Alessandra really was an inspiration to me, and that is why I am so incredibly honored that she reached out and asked me to share a recipe with all her fabulous readers. I love what a brilliant blogger she has turned into, and I just think it is so neat how we were able to find each other through the blogging community years after first meeting on the other side of the world.

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A lot has changed for me over the past three years. My passion for veganism, and sharing veganism with everyone I could, quickly grew after returning home from Italy. I went from being a “junk food vegetarian” to being a certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator through the Main Street Vegan Academy, and having a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Foundation and Cornell. I was also diagnosed with Celiac disease. I started my blog two-and-a-half years ago after discovering a love for healthy cooking, as well as photography. I wanted to show people that you can eat and be healthy, and still enjoy cooking and eating, while helping animals and the planet along the way. You can find me on my website Vegan 101 Girl and on all social media sites as vegan101girl. These days, I do admit, my presence in the blogging world has dwindled. I work for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in animal cruelty investigations, and that work has kind of consumed my life (in a good way!), but every free second I have, I’m sharing my love for all things vegan with the blogging world. I absolutely love whipping up vegan and gluten-free recipes, and I’m so excited that I get to share this one with you all today!

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And now, for the good stuff! Years ago I came across a non-vegan, non-gluten-free pilaf with raisins in it and I thought, “Oh, what I great idea to have dried fruit in a pilaf, yum!” Over the years, my own pilaf recipe has morphed bit-by-bit into what it is today. I love serving this colorful dish during the winter holidays, and it makes for a great entrée or side dish. Feel free to swap out the cranberries for your favorite dried fruit, and the kale for your preferred dark leafy green, but trust me when I say that kale and cranberries are a phenomenal pairing and your taste buds will seriously love this surprisingly delightful combo. Both kale and cranberries are absolute powerhouse foods, too. Kale is high in fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, iron, calcium, magnesium, and is rich in antioxidants. Cranberries are also rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals and multiple vitamins and minerals, and are famous for their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which help alleviate urinary tract infections as well as other types of infections.

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Kale-Cranberry Pilaf

Serves 2.

Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice
1 3/4 cup no-chicken broth (or homemade veggie broth if you aren’t in a hurry)
1 tbsp olive oil (can omit and use water for cooking veggies if following an oil-free diet)
1/2 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
5 cups kale (any variety), stemmed and roughly chopped (about 3/4 lb)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how much you like garlic!)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup nuts, chopped (optional; I like cashews)

Cook rice with no-chicken broth in pot or rice cooker according to the rice package or rice cooker instructions.

Meanwhile, when the rice has almost finished cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the diced onion for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the kale and cook for another 5 minutes, or until wilted. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for another minute. Add the cooked rice and cook for about 3 more minutes, or until the rice is warmed through.

Remove from the heat and stir in the cranberries and chopped nuts. Serve immediately.

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Another huge thanks to Lindsay for sharing her wisdom and culinary prowess on Farmers Market Vegan!

Until next time, Ali.

Am I a Vegan? | Walnut Scones with Maple Glaze

I have fond childhood memories of walking into a local bakery with my mother, greeted by the comforting aroma of sugary dough, and leaving with our favorite treat: a generously sized, dense yet flaky walnut scone with lip-smackingly sweet maple glaze. This scone was not vegan, and I – but a wee child who had not yet learned of animal suffering or intersecting oppressions – didn’t call myself one either.

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But should I now? Label myself as “vegan,” that is. The use of the word “vegan” comes up as a rather hotly debated topic in animal rights circles, from those who prefer to employ “vegetarian” in their advocacy – assuming that non-vegans feel less threatened by the word – to James McWilliams who just published a blog post on “The Vegan Identity,” to the Hens of Our Hen House who often discuss vegan diction on their podcast.

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Recently, as I read bell hooks’ Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center – recommended on my latest edition of “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” (#NewsandChews) – I came upon a passage that spoke directly to the issue of labeling oneself with a certain identity. Here, I’d like to quote the passage at length:

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“Focusing on feminism as political commitment, we resist the emphasis on individual identity and lifestyle…Such resistance engages us in revolutionary praxis. The ethics of Western society informed by imperialism and capitalism are personal rather than social. They teach us that the individual good is more important than the collective good and consequently that individual change is of greater significance than collective change…To emphasize that engagement with feminist struggle as political commitment we could avoid using the phrase “I am a feminist” (a linguistic structure designed to refer to some personal aspect of identity and self-definition) and could state “I advocate feminism.” Because there has been undue emphasis placed on feminism as an identity or lifestyle, people usually resort to stereotyped perspectives on feminism. Deflecting attention away from stereotypes is necessary if we are to revise our strategy and direction. I have found that saying “I am a feminist” usually means I am plugged into preconceived notions of identity, role, or behavior. When I say “I advocate feminism” the response is usually “what is feminism?” A phrase like “I advocate” does not imply the kind of absolutism that is suggested by “I am.” It does not engage us in the either/or dualistic thinking that is the central ideological component of all systems of domination in Western society. It implies that a choice has been made, that commitment to feminism is an act of will. It does not suggest that by committing oneself to feminism, the possibility of supporting other political movements is negated.”

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In the interest of our discussion, we can replace hooks’ use of “feminist” and “feminism” with “vegan” and “veganism” (though revolutionary feminism is also something in which all of us should be involved). For now, I find myself persuaded by hooks’ argument, and intend to begin discussing my veganism as a practice rather than as an identity. This linguistic shift in no way signals a wavering of my commitment to veganism (nor do I think that hooks’ implies that such a shift would do so), but a new mode of discussing the lifestyle in the hopes of reaching more people and furthering the movement in a revolutionary direction.

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I find this discussion absolutely fascinating, and would love to hear any and all of your thoughts.

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In return for your shared views on the topic, I give you a veganized recipe for those walnut scones of my childhood, dedicated to my mother.

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Walnut Scones with Maple Glaze

Makes 16 mini scones or 8 large scones.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup cold coconut oil, chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cold water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

1 cup coconut sugar
1 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
(or use 1 cup of maple sugar in the place of both of these ingredients)
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt. Stir well to combine.

Add the pieces of cold coconut oil to the flour mixture and use the tips of your fingers to “cut” (integrate wholly) the solid oil into the flour. You should end up with a mixture of grainy texture that almost resembles sand.

Add the maple syrup, cold water, and vanilla to the dry mixture and stir well to combine. At first it will seem like there isn’t enough liquid to wet the dough, but have faith and keep mixing until you have thoroughly incorporated the wet and dry ingredients. Stir in 3/4 of the chopped walnuts.

Flour a flat surface like your kitchen counter and drop the entire bowl of dough onto the surface. Form the dough into a disc that’s about 1 inch thick all the way around. Use a sharp knife to cut the circle into 16/8 (depending on if you want mini or large scones) even wedges. Separate the wedges and place them onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes for mini scones, and 15-17 minutes for larger scones, or until lightly golden brown.

While the scones bake, prepare the glaze. If using the coconut sugar-starch mixture, whir the coconut sugar and arrowroot or cornstarch together in a food processor until a fine powder forms. Whisk together the glaze ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. You may need to warm the glaze in the microwave for a couple of seconds to render it pourable. Once the scones have cooled for a few minutes, spoon the glaze into the middle of each scone and let it drizzle down the sides. While the glaze is still wet, sprinkle each scone with the remaining 1/4 of the chopped walnuts.

These scones will keep for 3-5 days in an air-tight container at room temperature, or for a couple of months in the freezer.

You can make these scones gluten-free by replacing the flours with 1 cup brown rice flour and 1 cup almond meal.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Seaweed & Edamame Salad | Thoughts on Vegan Privilege

Before introducing today’s recipe, I’m thrilled to announce the three winners of my most recent giveaway for two free pints of Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss vegan ice cream. Congratulations to Becca FergusonRosie Riccio DeRensis, and Megan Digeon! Enjoy the creamy, decadent, coconutty goodness.

I got myself into a Facebook skirmish the other day. I don’t often do so, nor do I know that I can even call this incident a “skirmish,” so much as an instance of me replying to a post I found problematic, and never hearing back from the poster or commentators. The post in question—entitled “Dear White Vegans: This is Your Collection Agency Calling“—elicited enthusiastic responses from two individuals who referred to themselves as “former white, privileged vegans.”

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I responded as such:

“I agree with many of the sentiments expressed in this article. The current vegan movement contains an onslaught of classist, racist, sexist, and ableist elements. Equating the mass slaughter of animals with genocide and slavery co-opts the unknowable suffering of marginalized peoples in an effort to further another movement.

However, I feel that the arguments expressed in this article are a bit ad-hominem. Yes, the way veganism at large is being executed right now is hugely problematic. But at its core, veganism, for me, is simply an extension of an effort to combat the multiplicities of oppression in this world. The exploitation of people of color, women, members of the LGBT community, non-human animals, etc. are not the same, but they share a similar component: an unequal relationship between oppressor and oppressed. I would argue that if this relationship exists anywhere, the possibility for a liberated society becomes greatly hindered.

Consider the powerful activists in history who were also vegan: Cesar Chavez, Thich Nhat Hanh, Coretta Scott King, Angela Davis, and so on. They recognized that while different instances of oppression are not at all the same and each need to be understood in their own right, they are also intimately connected by their being perpetuated by a capitalistic, patriarchal, colonial mindset. To fight against these marginalizing power relations, I feel that we must engage in a multiplicity of social struggles in order to empower habitually silenced groups. And I would argue that these struggles should include non-human animals.”

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In essence, I don’t want to throw out the idea of veganism simply because its current execution involves a multiplicity of problematic aspects. Instead, since I’m currently privileged enough to enjoy access to a bounty of plant-based foods, an income to obtain such foods, and a social circle that won’t disown my non-mainstream lifestyle, I’ve passionately added animal exploitation to the list of oppressions I’m actively seeking to combat by leading a vegan lifestyle.

Equally important, however, is that in such a privileged position, I must also engage in actively combating the problematic aspects of the vegan movement, in part by constantly reminding myself that the privilege enabling my vegan lifestyle exists among the phenomena that I actively seek to combat. The actions I’m taking against such privilege don’t involve giving up veganism, since that would actively enforce another very real oppression. Instead, the actions involve supporting admirable organizations like Food Not Bombs and the Food Empowerment Project that work to make nourishing vegan options accessible to marginalized communities; working to free myself of the capitalistic mindset of nonstop accumulation of material goods; working not to reinforce my various privileges in my daily interpersonal relations; and educating myself about the histories and current manifestations of various oppressions by devouring anti-racist, feminist, anarchist, etc. literature and following progressive news sources.

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These efforts don’t stop my occupation of a privileged position, of course. I’m still able to take myself out for expensive dinners at upscale restaurants in Manhattan; I’m still able to host giveaways on the ol’ blog for free products while the vivacious homeless man, who hangs out most days on the bench in front of my apartment building, asks for donations; I’m still able to shell out $12.99 for a 6-oz bag of arame seaweed at Whole Foods.

But these privileges don’t exist because I’m vegan, and they’ll still exist even if I were to throw up my hands and give up veganism tomorrow (which I absolutely will not). They exist because I’m a white, straight, cisgender individual with an upper-middle-class background. And veganism is only the first way in which I hope to engage in a challenge to the capitalist, patriarchal, colonial, speciesist, etc. society that makes it super easy to thrive with such identity factors.

Now, before I recommence all this challenging, please excuse me while I enjoy the following salad that I made with a $12.99-bag of arame seaweed that I bought at Whole Foods after being inspired to make such a salad by a dish I enjoyed at a not-inexpensive restaurant in perhaps the most well-off neighborhood in Brooklyn. Don’t we all love a good contradiction?

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Seaweed & Edamame SaladNut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Serves 2-4 as a side dish.

Ingredients:

3 oz arame or hiziki seaweed (or a blend of the two)
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp finely sliced scallions
2 tbsp sesame seeds (both white & black are fine)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Place the seaweed in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let the seaweed soak for 15-60 minutes, or until it has expanded significantly. Drain.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shelled edamame and boil for 4-6 minutes. Drain.

When the seaweed has finished soaking, heat the coconut oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for a minute, then add the drained seaweed and saute for about 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated from the seaweed. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the toasted sesame oil, raise the heat to medium-high, and saute until most of the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat and relocate the seaweed mixture to a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the toasted sesame oil. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

Until next time, Ali.

TastyMakes Raw Organic Snacks Review & GIVEAWAY!

Sorry, this giveaway has closed!

Get ready, dear readers, for a summer of exciting giveaways on Farmers Market Vegan! I have quite a few of these super fun product raffles up my sleeve for the next three months, so I do hope that you’ll keep a close eye on the ol’ blog amidst all of your warm-weather frolicking.

The first of these giveaways comes from the generous folks over at Tastymakes—a fabulous new snack company that specializes in raw, sprouted, organic, and ethically sourced savory crackers, sweet “barbites,” and crunchy granola clusters. Compelled to share the benefits of a raw, vegan diet with others after healing from a bike injury through alkaline eating, Tastymakes co-founder Melissa Lacitignola has joined with her husband and a professional raw foods chef to make her dream a reality. As if that story weren’t inspiring enough, TastyMakes also donates 5% of all its profits to anti-hunger organizations. Can you say “socially responsible company”?

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Not only do the folks at Tastymakes offer top-quality raw snacks, they also run a snack box subscription program through which customers can receive various amounts of crackers, barbites, and granolas each month. Arriving like clockwork every month with free shipping, these TastyBoxes ensure a pantry consistently stocked with energizing, nourishing snacks.

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Melissa and her team were kind enough to send me a couple product samples: one bag each of their Salt & Vinegar Crackers, Garden Herb Crackers, and Vanilla Nut BarBites. All of the snacks boasted a short list of hugely wholesome ingredients as well as an enormous punch of flavor.

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The Salt & Vinegar Crackers (the ingredients in which include apple cider vinegar, sprouted golden flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and sea salt) sported a supremely crunchy texture that dissolved pleasingly on the tongue as a hit of flavor spread through the entire mouth. These crackers will make you guffaw in disdain of those outdated salt & vinegar potato chips, whose muted flavor could never hope to stand up to that of these intensely savory crackers.

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The Garden Herb Crackers (the ingredients of which include sprouted golden flaxseed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, rosemary, thyme, sea salt, onions, and garlic) held a firmer texture than did the Salt & Vinegar Crackers, providing more heft for optimal dippability. Indeed, I enjoyed these fresh-tasting crackers spread with a pea puree and fresh almond milk ricotta from Kite Hill—not bad for a rough-and-tumble dinner, if I do say so myself.

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The Vanilla Nut Bar Bites (the ingredients of which include dates, walnuts, cashews, sprouted Spanish almonds, vanilla extract, flaxseed meal, and sea salt) offered a super intense vanilla flavor, coupled with a texture perfectly balanced between chewy and crunchy. I also found that these bites provided ample versatility, able to function not only as an ideal energy-packed snack, but as a premade crust for raw desserts! Check out the recipe below to see what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

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Mini Lemon-Ginger Cheesecake Cups—Raw, Soy Free, Low Sodium

Makes 8 mini cups.

Ingredients:

16 TastyMakes Vanilla Nut Bar Bites
1 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 2 hours and drained
1/2 cup coconut oil (use this lemon-ginger flavored coconut oil for more of a kick!)
1/3 cup coconut or agave nectar (or maple syrup, if you’re not concerned about the cakes being fully raw)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger

Cut a sheet of plastic wrap about double the size of your 8-piece mini muffin tin. Spread the sheet over the tin and press the plastic wrap into each of the 8 cups to line them.

Take two Vanilla Nut Bar Bites and mush them together into one larger bite. Press the new bite into the bottom of one of the 8 cups. Repeat with the remaining 14 Vanilla Nut Bar Bites.

In the bowl of a food processor or the carafe of a high-speed blender, combine the soaked and drained cashews, coconut oil, coconut nectar or maple syrup, lemon juice, and ginger. Puree until very smooth. Fill each of the Nut Bar Bite-lined mini muffin cups to the brim with the cashew puree. Stick the entire mini muffin tray into the freezer and allow the cheesecake cups to set for about an hour. Remove each of the cups from the freezer about 5-10 minutes before you’d like to enjoy them.

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If that tantalizing recipe isn’t enough to get you ecstatic about this giveaway, I don’t know what will. Those of you that are ecstatic, though, have the chance to win your very own TastyBox! Simply click the links at the top or bottom of this post to enter the giveaway. Good luck!

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, June 15, and I will ann0unce the two winners on the following day.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed!

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with free product samples. All opinions are completely my own.

Until next time, Ali.

Tempeh Pita Pockets with Tzatziki

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One of my favorite aspects of living in a 21-person vegan cooperative household involves the high-quality leftovers that my housemates will bring home after they’ve helped to host a catered campus event. In the past, I’ve arrived home to discover samosas and dipping sauces from the nearby Indian restaurant, fried plantains and beans and rice from the Caribbean restaurant down the street, polenta rounds and marinated baked tofu from the Latin American fusion restaurant across the road—all sitting in our refrigerator, free for gastronomic merriment.

Most recently, one of my housemates gifted us with a tray of hummus and whole-wheat pita bread from the nearby Middle Eastern restaurant. Seeking to stuff that pita with more than the standard hummus, I looked through the extensive, mouthwatering Sandwich section of the ever-inspiring Millennium Cookbook, only to come across the ideal recipe with which to experiment: Seitan Gyros.

Millennium’s recipe features homemade herbed seitan medallions stuffed into homemade flatbread and topped with a tofu, mint, and cilantro raita, a tomato relish, and a handful of shredded lettuce. Due to my packed student schedule, the premade pita bread at my fingertips, and the absence of seitan-making ingredients in the house, the recipe required a bit of tweaking to suit my needs. Subbing tempeh baked in a brightly flavored marinade for the seitan, a cucumber variation of the raita (aka, tzatziki) that uses soy yogurt, simply sliced tomatoes for the relish, and the generously donated whole-wheat restaurant pita, I created a less time-intensive spin on Millennium’s original recipe.

Be warned: you will need multiple napkins to fully enjoy this sandwich. But honestly, what sandwich worth eating doesn’t result in a little mess?

Tempeh Pita Pockets with Tzatziki—Oil Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat

Makes 2 pockets, serving 1-2 people.

Tempeh Ingredients:

6 six-inch strips of tempeh (about 4 oz)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp agave or maple syrup
1/4 cup veggie broth or water

Tzatziki Ingredients:

1/4 cup soy yogurt
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup grated cucumber (about 1 small cucumber)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pocket Ingredients:

1 whole wheat pita, cut in half and toasted (use good-quality storebought or one of these recipes)
1/2 of a large tomato, sliced
Handful of mixed greens
1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Prepare the tempeh: Place a steamer basket in a pot of water and set to boil. Place the tempeh strips in the basket, cover, and steam for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small baking dish, whisk together the garlic through veggie broth or water. Once the tempeh has finished steaming, place the strips in the marinade, and place the baking dish in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

Prepare the tzatziki: While the tempeh bakes, in a medium-sized bowl, combine all of the tzatziki ingredients. Set aside.

Assemble the pockets: Open one of the pita halves and spoon some tzatziki into it. Layer the mixed greens on one side, three strips of tempeh on the other side, and one or two tomato slices in the middle. Spoon some additional tzatziki over the top, and finish off with a couple small slices of red onion.

Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Until next time, Ali.

Salted Caramel Date (or Fig) Loaf

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About one year ago, as I scoured the boards of Pinterest, I came across a recipe title that widened my mouth agape and my tongue lolling: Salted. Caramel. Date. Loaf. Faced with perhaps the most perfect ingredient pairing in all of baking-dom (caramel? And dates? In LOAF form?!?!), I of course clicked on the recipe…only to elicit disappointment. Featuring butter, eggs, heavy cream, white flour, and refined sugar, this particular iteration of Salted Caramel Date Loaf did not comprise something that I wanted to put into my body, largely due to the harm that it would inflict upon the non-consenting bodies of chickens and cows.

I moved on, X-ing out of the webpage and opting not to save the recipe on my extensive “Recipes to Try” Word document. But the recipe lingered. It lingered in the culinary-inspiration node of my brain as I prepared my breakfast that morning. It lingered as I attended my classes that day. It lingered as I started on a Geography essay that night. I wanted to find research articles on the commodification of human body parts in the global organ trade, I really did, but darn it all, that Date Loaf simply begged to be made.

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So I made it. And I made it vegan. And I made it free of refined flours and sugars. And I’ve made it for the twenty members—some vegan, some not—of my on-campus living cooperative about three or four times now, eliciting all but the kissing of my feet and near-weekly requests to replicate the loaf. Once you create this loaf for yourself (and I would very highly recommend, if not insist, that you do), you’ll understand my housemates’ enthusiasm. Dense, moist, succulently yet naturally sweet, and boasting pockets of sticky caramel, this loaf will leave you marveling at the possibility that such utter perfection can result from less than ten ingredients and a stint in the oven.

This loaf utilizes unrefined coconut sugar for the caramel, though I’m sure that Sucanat would also do the trick. I’m not certain, however, that either maple sugar or date sugars would work, as I don’t know if their physical properties would allow them to melt in the necessary manner. I’ve not experimented with this recipe using a gluten-free flour blend, but I have no reason to doubt that one would work. If you find yourself without flaxseed meal, you can substitute equal amounts of psyllium husks—but double the amount of water that you mix with them (six tablespoons instead of three). Finally, as you’ll note from the title, this loaf tastes equally decadent with the substitution of dried figs for dates. I’ve made the fig variety of this loaf about twice now, yielding terrific results on both occasions. Okay, enough with the introductions—get thee to a kitchen stat because you need this loaf in your life.

Salted Caramel Date (or Fig) Loaf—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Makes one loaf.

Ingredients:

1 cup coconut sugar
1 cup medjool dates (or dried figs), chopped
1 cup hot water
6 tbsp coconut oil, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light spelt or whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp flaxseed meal mixed with 3 tbsp water (mix before you start making the rest of the recipe)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium saucepan, place the coconut sugar over medium heat. Stir the sugar gently (and constantly so that it doesn’t burn!) until it melts and caramelizes completely. At first, it will seem like the sugar will never melt, but have patience, because it always does (yay for physics!). Turn off the heat and stir in the water, chopped dates, and coconut oil. The mixture will probably harden as you do this, but don’t fret—simply place the mixture back over medium heat so that it re-melts.

Once the mixture has re-melted, lower the heat all the way and keep the caramel warm while you prepare the rest of the loaf. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour in the caramel, flaxseed mixture, and vanilla extract, and mix well to combine completely.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 30-60 minutes before slicing and experiencing the most intense culinary epiphany of your life.

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Recipe submitted to Recipe Wednesday, Healthy Vegan Friday, and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Single-Serving Fruity Hazelnut Muesli

Before getting into today’s recipe, I’d like to direct you, dear readers, to my latest piece on Our Hen House, entitled “How Political Science Helped Me to Understand the Vegan/Animal Rights Movement and Become a Better Activist.” Drawing upon political theories regarding modern social movements, the piece offers a take on the current state of the vegan/animal rights movement and what directions the movement might be wise to take. I’d love it if you checked the piece out and offered your thoughts. Now, on to breakfast!

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On most mornings of my spring break extravaganza in Florence, Italy (which you can read all about in these three posts!), I enjoyed a scrumptious bowl of muesli and fresh fruit, accompanied by a side of savory steamed & spiced greens. For those of you unfamiliar with the dish, muesli comprises a popular European breakfast of rolled oats, dried fruit, seeds, and nuts soaked in milk, yogurt, and/or fruit juice, which originated in the Swiss Alps and became popularized by a Swiss physician who prescribed primarily plant-based diets for his patients. Finding myself without a blender to make my usual green smoothies while in Italy, I bopped around the natural foods market near my parents’ apartment in search of another nourishing breakfast. Amongst the shelf of granola, I discovered a bag of muesli from an organic German company known as Rapunzel and, smitten by the hazelnuts in the ingredient list (because hazelnuts are obviously the most perfect nut in all of existence), opted to experiment with this traditionally Swiss breakfast.

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The basic preparation of muesli involves soaking the dry ingredients in a flavorful liquid for at least ten minutes and up to overnight, making it an incredibly easy breakfast to assemble in the evening and enjoy on mornings on which you find yourself pressed for time. My favorite version involves a dry mixture replete with toasted hazelnuts, rolled grains, flax, and raisins soaked in unsweetened soy milk and plain soy yogurt, with bite-sized pieces of fresh fruit mixed in after soaking. Hearty, toothsome, sweet, fresh, and flavorful, this muesli provides an oh-so-satisfying and hugely wholesome breakfast. So prepare yourself some muesli, practice your yodeling, and get ready for some Swiss tastiness.

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Single-Serving Fruity Hazelnut Muesli—Can be SF, OF, LS, LF.

Serves 1.

1/3 cup rolled oats (or a mixture of rolled grains, such as barley flakes, rye flakes, quinoa flakes, etc.)
1-2 tbsp hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
1 tsp flaxseed meal
1-2 tbsp raisins (or other bite-sized dried fruit)
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 cup non-dairy yogurt (can substitute another 1/2 cup of milk if needed or desired)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen & thawed mixed berries OR 1 medium apple, grated

The night before you’d like to enjoy your muesli, combine the oats through milk in a large cereal bowl. Allow to sit, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, stir in the berries or grated apple. At this point, you can enjoy as is or heat up the muesli in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

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Until next time, Ali.

Mushroom-Chestnut Soup

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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.

Ingredients:

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.

Review & GIVEAWAY! of The Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk & Cookbook

This giveaway has closed. Congratulations to Amanda Thomas!

I’m elated, dear readers, to host Farmers Market Vegan’s second giveaway—an exciting one, indeed. One lucky reader will receive a copy of The Vegg Cookbook: Egg-Free Cooking Uncaged, as well as two packets of The Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk. Click the above link or the link at the bottom of the post to enter to win these top-notch prizes. The giveaway will close at 12:00 a.m. EST on Tuesday, January 21, and I will announce the winners later than day.

Photo credit to Vegan Cuts.

Photo credit to Vegan Cuts.

I first encountered The Vegg this past summer while interning with the animal advocacy non-profit Compassion Over Killing, who provided much support and promotion for the 2012 launch of the vegan egg yolk. (The below opinions of The Vegg, however, are completely my own and not in any way influenced by my work with COK). While I sold many a packet of The Vegg to enthusiastic patrons of the events at which COK tabled this summer, I didn’t have the chance to experiment with it myself until Vegg developer Rocky Shepheard contacted me about reviewing his cookbook on the ol’ blog. Needless to say, I responded with an earnest “yes,” and here I am today, writing this post, regaling the wonders of The Vegg, right now at this very moment…you get the picture.

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Longtime vegan and animal rights activist Rocky Shepheard began tinkering with a recipe for a vegan egg yolk in 2010 after reading an April Fool’s Day article about a commercially available vegan fried egg. Two years later, Rocky had transformed a joke into a reality and introduced The Vegg onto the market, giving the over 280 million egg-laying hens in the U.S.—most of whom spend their lives intensively confined inside barren wire cages—something to cluck about. With the appearance, texture, taste, and even smell of a chicken’s egg, The Vegg provides a cruelty-free replacement in any traditionally egg-based recipe—French toast, omelets, hollandaise, crème brulee, breaded and fried foods, you name it. While The Vegg cannot provide the functional properties of eggs in baking, it can enhance any sweet (or savory!) treat with a rich, surprisingly accurate eggy flavor. Hesitant at first to try The Vegg based upon my assumption that it contained questionable ingredients, I happily discovered that The Vegg comprises of nothing more than fortified nutritional yeast (get yer B12 here, kids!), seaweed-derived sodium alginate, and black salt (which imbues The Vegg with its characteristic eggy aroma and flavor). An egg yolk free of cholesterol, gluten, soy, GMOs, and animal suffering? Yes, please.

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Released the year following the launch of The Vegg, The Vegg Cookbook features nearly 70 vegan recipes from Rocky, Sandy Defino, and food-blogging fans of The Vegg that highlight the versatility of the vegan egg yolk. Divided into three sections—Morning Medleys, The Main Dish, and Sweet Satisfaction—the cookbook features such tantalizing recipes as The World’s Best (and Most Realistic) Vegan Fried Egg, Tangerine French Toast, Vegg Tempura, Artichoke-Tomato Quiche, Mom’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Banana Cream Meringue Pie, and more. For my foray into the world of The Vegg Cookbook, I chose to sample one recipe from each section of the book.

One important requirement for successful use of The Vegg in all recipes, however, involves blending the powdered vegan egg yolk with either water or plant-based milk (depending on your recipe) in a mini blender or food processor, since blending by hand will yield less-than-smooth results. I own a mini food processor that works quite nicely for The Vegg, though I’m sure a spice grinder would also do the trick. During the blending, you’ll begin to freak out about the eggy aroma emanating from your blending apparatus. Upon my first blending endeavor, I sprinted into the living room to fetch my father, forcing him to stick his nose into my mini food processor. He agreed as to the accuracy of the smell…though perhaps without my same level of enthusiasm.

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Photo credit to Veganoo.

I first tried out the Crème Brulee, submitted by none other than Erin Wysocarski of the fabulous vegan blog Olives for Dinner. The recipe involves combining a blended Vegg-water mixture with coconut milk, sugar (I used maple sugar), and vanilla, then simmering the mixture with agar powder to impart a gel-like consistency. While my use of maple sugar didn’t produce the satisfying crackly crust akin to crème brulees, the finished dessert otherwise proved immensely successful. Creamy, eggy, and just sweet enough with an oh-so decadent mouthfeel, the crème brulees had my parents raving for days after licking their ramekins clean.

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Venturing into the cookbook’s savory territory, I whipped up the Vietnamese Pancakes with Veggies & Herbs, courtesy of Nancy Montuori Stein of Ordinary Vegan. The thin, crepe-like pancakes contain rice flour, a blended Vegg, turmeric, and coconut milk, providing a bright yellow, satisfyingly squishy wrapper for the brightly flavored shredded veggies and herbs inside. Topped with a spicy-sweet dipping sauce, this recipe yielded a gorgeously hued dinner with a flavor-packed punch, though the egginess of The Vegg didn’t come through in the pancakes as much as I would have liked.

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My Vegg Cookbook review endeavors ended with a version of the Scrambled Tofu from Helen Rossiter of Lots of Nice Things. The original recipe seemed to me as a template of sorts, containing only a blended Vegg, tofu, and scallions sautéed together. To spice up the dish, I borrowed the seasonings from Janet’s Dillicious Tofu Scramble and added shredded brussels sprouts and shiitake mushrooms to the mix, serving the scramble alongside a pile of roasted potatoes. I’m uncertain if I added a touch too much turmeric or if I failed to adequately cook the blended Vegg into the dish, but something seemed off both flavor- and texture-wise in the finished dish. Probably due to my mistake, the shortcomings of the tofu scramble should in no way dissuade you from the merits of this cookbook (but should perhaps dissuade you from using a heavy hand with turmeric…).

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With half of a packet of The Vegg still left after my experiments, I’m excited to try out some more recipes from the cookbook. However, I’m even more excited for you to familiarize yourself with The Vegg and its cookbook! For your chance to do so, be sure to click on the link either below or at the top of the post and enter the giveaway by 12:00 a.m. EST on Tuesday, January 21. Happy Vegg-ing!

***NOTE: This giveaway is open only to U.S. residents.***

This post is submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays and Wellness Weekend.

This giveaway has closed. Congratulations to Amanda Thomas!