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You know those great cooking shows that feature wonderful tasty recipes and cooks who can throw things together in front of the tv cameras. They have all the ingredients set up, the oven is preheated and everything turns out perfectly!!! Not to mention that their kitchen is straight out of a magazine. Stainless steel everything, gorgeous updated counters, all color coordinated. This is the stuff that makes cooks who cook in regular kitchens drool. I have always thought that I would like to have a cooking show that is real life-when you are in the middle of a recipe you realize that the eggplant that you were planning on using has gone bad and you have to run to the store. Or that you don’t enough mozzerella cheese but you do have some Monterey Jack, or that you have to find a substitute for the eggs that got eaten for breakfast by someone in your family. These are real life situations and most of us have had to deal with them (except maybe Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart, but remember they have a staff-my staff cleans the floor if I drop something tasty, but the dogs can’t do much more).
So that brings me to my point-one of the new things in arts and crafts is drooling over others “studios” beautiful color coordinated rooms, that have tables, and storage, and chairs and décor that all is…well artsy and gorgeous. There are even magazines that are called “Where Women Create” (full disclosure I haven’t read one-I would be too discouraged). So I want to show what it is really like in a starting artists life. Not someone who is young and going to school and starving. But someone like me who has been through some twists and turns, some starts and stops, some changes and second chances. Someone who has bills to pay, someone who goes to a job, someone who lives with other people and has to juggle schedules and demands and other activities. Oh, I admire the artists with awesome studios that have commercial success-I can even think of these artists as people I want to emmulate and follow on their blogs or buy their books-there are several in our town that am blown away by their talent. They are fairly open about the fact that they didn’t start out being super successful, but I wanted to show a middle-aged person coming late to the art world and what it really looks like, so here is my “studio”:
We have a living room/dining room combination that is also my studio, our living room, tv room, homework room, dog training room, sleeping room, office and generally the room that we live in day in and day out. It has three large picture windows on three outside walls another window that is on the same plane as one of the picture windows. Three doors, a fireplace, and a piano against one wall. To say there is no wall space is an understatement. To say that there is great light is also an understatement. Even in the darkest of winter we don’t need the lights on during the day-so that is a big plus.
My awesome IKEA table that my family bought for me I keep lots of paper, paint, doodads and stuff in there. The top is always covered with stuff usually so much that I have to create on the dining room table. See that painting of Labrador? That is my oldest daughter’s painting – it has been sitting there for two years.
The top of the IKEA table.
A pile of paintings on top of the dog crate. The painting on the left in the corner looks better in this photo than in real life.
A pile of bills and stuff that I have to do not my favorite job. The pile on the right is college application stuff for my daughter.
A picture of the living room with the pug in her favorite place. Notice all the blankets around-we haven’t turned on the heat yet so we are wrapping ourselves in blankets all the time.
So I hope everyone (all one reader that I have) enjoys a “real” tour.
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First off I am not about to “convert” anyone to any lifestyle/belief system/diet whatever you want to label what I am. Second I am not judging anyone else’s food choices. Everyone is where they are because of their experiences and what their level of comfort is with where they are in their life.
My journey probably started in 2nd grade when our class saw a movie that showed where meat came from until then I really didn’t have a clue. I sobbed when I saw those little piggies at the slaughter house. I didn’t give up ham though-I still love a sweet salty taste and didn’t know then that you can make just about anything be sweet and salty. Also I loved hot dogs really loved hot dogs really really loved hot dogs. I even remember sometimes when my parents would make me eat the meat on my plate, but let me not eat the veggies-something about needing protein or maybe because the meat was so much more expensive than the vegetables. My mother claims that I became a vegetarian in high school, but I do not have recollection of that, and I know I wasn’t vegetarian in college.
In 1990 I read Diet for a New America and immediately went completely overboard combining grains and legumes for complete proteins and cooking up big batches of lentils and millet (can you even buy millet anymore?) – I still used lots and lots of cheese. Then I became pregnant in 1992 and had to have red meat-I salivated over it (now I gag). I could go through the next 15 or so years, but it would be filled with meat (and hot dogs) and basic American cooking with a bit of European twist. My oldest daughter stopped eating meat when she was 11. I remember being very supportive, she probably remembers differently. When she was in high school and our younger daughter was in middle school we got chickens so we wouldn’t have to support the chicken industry (yes, I know that was mistaken) we ended up with 8 chicks they were all so cute and really how could anyone resist. Turns out 2 were roosters and we located a family friend that lived in a vegan intentional community and she took them in for guard chickens. One chicken spontaneously died so we were down to 5 hens. I really couldn’t eat chicken after raising our girls from chicks so that was out of our meal rotation. I still ate beef, pork and fish. I became fascinated with the blog of a very famous blogger that lives on a ranch in Oklahoma and raises beef.
I loved her recipes and made many of them-they were all delicious. Then she posted something about how necessary burning their fields is and how they do it every year-first I know it isn’t necessary for the health of the soil it is just an easy way to take care of pests. Second I completely attribute my asthma to the field burning that took place north of where I grew up. There were weeks in the summer when our town was engulfed in smoke-I get ill when I smell that smell. If she was wrong about that how many other pro-meat things is she writing about in her blog and making trying to convince people that the cows have a wonderful life. I never read her again. Okay I did go back and copy off a pasta recipe, but that was it. About that time I quit eating pork and beef but continued with fish. Then February 20, 2012 a friend recommended the movie Forks over Knives and my daughter also texted me the same day that I should watch it. I have never looked back and never eaten any fish since. I consider myself to be 95% vegan with mostly a whole food diet.
Occasionally I find myself in a situation where there isn’t a vegan option to eat and I always choose the feelings of my hosts over being a stickler on being vegan, but not vegetarian-I will not eat the flesh of another being. Also cheese pizza ahhhhhhhhhh, cheese pizza –I try to eat a vegan version of this and many times I am successful, but really cheese pizza is my one weakness! My third time that “bend” my rules and frankly they are my rules, how I choose to eat, is when my daughters bake something and it isn’t vegan, usually it will be a cake or pie-although they are both working on making vegan versions of them.
Am I satisfied with what I am currently eating – WOW – I don’t miss any of it (except the cheese pizza) I think I have gone through more awesome recipes and my spice cabinet is in full working mode now than ever before. Some recipes are from my favorite cookbooks, some are from the vast array of vegan websites and bloggers and some are family favorites that I have veganized. I am off to head out in the garden to pick some kale for my greenie that I am making for my lunch today-a salad that you can drink.
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I took that from the Veggie Grill menu. I never in a million years thought I would
like love kale. But it happened. I have always known that kale is good for you and it must be somehow edible maybe even enjoyable. I tried – I would buy kale salad at the deli every year or so, I would buy some and try to fix it, I would look up recipes in books and on the internet, but I could never make it be even remotely possible to eat. Then I discovered kale chips – I bought them at Food Fight and was hooked on the things – I found a recipe to make them at home (it takes a ton of kale to make even a few chips), my daughter pointed out that was just an oil and salt delivery system. What did I care I was eating kale.
I read every issue of Veg News cover to cover, except I skim the part of about animal cruelty (another post), but in April/May issue they had a green smoothie recipe that involved kale, my husband suggested we try it. The first time I tried it I made it in the food processor and added the suggested 2 cups of water-it was chunky and watery at the same time if that is possible. Surprisingly I made it again the next day-this time in the blender and with less water-I haven’t missed a day since we started them.
4 large kale leaves
½ cup of spinach
4 pitted dates
1/3 cup blueberries
2 cups water
My recipe starting with what I put in first:
3 pitted dates
1 banana-if it is really big I only use half otherwise I use the whole thing
2 cups baby kale-if I can find it, otherwise 4 large kale leaves destemmed
2 cups spinach or whatever I can fit in the blender after the other things.
½ cup blueberries sometimes frozen and sometimes fresh either one works.
½ cup+/- water just enough to get the blender to work well.
Chia seeds – no idea how much-this works really well if I have added too much water and it needs to be thickened up. The chia seeds kind of get like tapioca after they soak for a bit.
I usually have to start the blender and then stop it and shove the stuff in harder and maybe add more water. If I blend longer if it is regular kale and a bit less if it is baby kale.
Also I have added cucumber, mango, peaches, apples, and papayas-they were all good. I am off to make my “greenie” for the day – maybe two! Enjoy!
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One of my favorite summer meals-it can be vegan or not, gluten free or not, white bread or whole wheat, if you don’t like onions-no problem. All of these ingredients are optional and I don’t add all of them to every salad. If you want it bread salad though you really need to add the bread otherwise it can be grain salad if you use a grain or rice.
Bread-I like whole wheat artisanal bread, but my kids like sour dough-torn into small chunks-sometimes I cut them with a knife but I like it better torn. If I am using and artisanal loaf I will usually use half a loaf.
Tomatoes-the best would fresh from your garden, but second best would be Heirloom ones from the farmer’s market or grocery store and then well you are on your own after that. I wish I could say how many, but since tomatoes vary in size and everyone’s taste buds are different you decide. Dice up what you are going to use-the smaller the better.
Cucumbers-This is only as important as you want it to be, but I only like the English variety-I supposed you could use a regular cucumber-I haven’t tried it. I like to leave the skin on and seeds in tact and dice up very small.
Avocados I love to use avocados in as many things as possible so I try to add at least two to the salad. I add them at the last minute so they don’t “disappear” in the salad.
Red Onion-I use big chunks if someone that is going to eat the salad doesn’t like onion so they can pick them out, if everyone likes onion I dice very small.
Corn-This adds some sweetness to the salad, usually I use frozen corn and just pour in whatever I feel like.
Kalamata Olives-they add another layer of flavor to the salad. Diced up and I use the same rule as for the onions if everyone likes them I dice them small otherwise I just split them in half.
Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, salt and pepper-A word about all of these-Buy the best you can afford of all them. Please please please do not use regular table salt or Kosher salt-they are made by large companies and really do not add the depth of flavor that you want. Get some sea salt or truffle salt or Himalayan salt.
Garbanzo beans or chickpeas-I like this addition, but I am the only one in my house that does.
Quinoa-this would be a fabulous grain to add to the salad if you wanted to leave the bread out.
Rice-this would make it gluten free and you could just use whatever you have left over from another meal.
The assembly-I like to dry the bread out a bit so I will tear it up early in the morning and let sit on the counter in a bowl that I toss around a few times all day long.
I also like to add all the veggies except the avocado together and leave in the refrigerator all day. Some times I add the olive oil and vinegar but currently my family likes that added in at the end. If you do this all in the morning it is easy to combine everything at dinner time and have this on the table in no time.
I know what you are thinking you are concerned that I am not naming amounts-that is because I believe a recipe is a guide in salad like this mix and taste, mix and taste mix and taste. I like lots more salt and pepper than most people. Some other herbs and spices that would be good would be dill, garlic, chili pepper (although not all of those at once).
Combine everything, mix and taste, adjust the salt and pepper and olive and vinegar. Serve. I suppose you could add a side salad with this but really I think it is complete the way it is.
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I have a sweet tooth. When I say that I have a sweet tooth I mean if I could I would add sugar to every morsel that goes in my mouth and I don’t mean some natural sugar I mean refined white granular sugar! One of the items that was on my “dream list for life” was to make cotton candy or spun sugar – I finally fulfilled that dream when my kids were in elementary school and I got to make the cotton candy for the school fair. One of my favorite parts of summer while I was growing up was going to the county fair and other local festivals just to get the cotton candy. This sweet tooth has not gone away as I have gotten older several years ago I ate an entire tub of meirguine cookies in one sitting I am not sure how much sugar is in one tub, but suffice it to say I started sweating about half way through the tub. Let’s just say I have an issue with refined sugar. This probably is okay except my mother and my grandmother were diabetics so I can see what the road is going to be like ahead of me and it isn’t the life I want.
My goal always has been not perfection but progress. I know I am making progress because there is no way on earth I would even put a meriguine cookie in mouth now let alone eat an entire tub. (Part of that would be that they aren’t vegan, but not all). Last night at my MIL’s home I didn’t eat the frosting off of everyone else’s cake-no it was not vegan and that was a situation where I had to make a moral decision about what to do-not eat the cake and hurt my 83-year-old-bad-heart MIL’s feelings or say something about being vegan and I couldn’t possibly touch it. She had been so sweet in putting out “vegan” appetizers (I brought the entrée) carrots and broccoli florets with ranch dressing (no the dressing wasn’t vegan) and I didn’t touch them so I really felt I needed eat the cake-judge away dear readers.
Currently I have three sweet delights-coco carmels, vegan marshmallows (usually made into smore), and vegan cupcakes. So what is my real go-to sweet delight that doesn’t screw up my system too much-FRUIT!!!! And lots of it. Right now the strawberries and raspberries and blueberries and peaches and cherries and plums are to die for. Most of them are fine by themselves, but others can be made into smoothies-blueberries and peaches are great for that.
Tomorrow my favorite go to summer recipe that gets a lot of play at our house all season and into the fall as well. It is versatile, fast, can be made ahead, and can be made vegan or if you aren’t vegan you can put cheese in it. Then my favorite daily meal in the form of kale – yes, kale. I never thought I would ever, ever eat kale, but now I have it daily sometimes twice a day and I love it!
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Maybe my favorite dish eveh!!! I took a “traditional” Pad Thai recipe and just veganized it! Yes, there is vegan fish sauce and it is fabulous! This is not low calorie, just because it is vegan doesn’t mean it is healthy-this isn’t something we have every week maybe once a month or when we have guests. If we have guests I do add eggs to their portions (not mine) since we have the eggs anyway I don’t want to waste them.
1/2 cup vegan fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup palm sugar if you can find it, if not agave nectar works well
vegetable oil – just enough to saute a few things
1-2 cloves of garlic
tofu-you decide how much I like to use an entire package not sure how much that is.
10 oz of medium rice noodles soaked in hot water-at least ten minutes
1 cup of veggie broth (water works too)
1+/- cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup of Thai basil-if you can’t get it use whatever basil you can find or have
1/2 cup roasted peanuts coarsely chopped
3-4 green onions thinly sliced
Limes-these are very important
Preparation is the key-I have every thing ready before I even turn the stove on. Mix the fish sauce (I call it fish sauce even though there isn’t any fish in it), limes, and palm sugar together – if the palm sugar doesn’t dissolve and sometimes it doesn’t I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so and then try mixing it. The early in the prep you can do this step the better-FYI use real limes not that stuff in a bottle it makes a difference. Then start the noodles in the hot water. Then slice the tofu and drain on a towel, try to get as much liquid out as possible. Slice the green onions and set aside, tear up the basil and set aside, chop the peanuts and set aside, prepare the mung bean sprouts by tearing of each end and making sure they are about an inch long. I usually put those in little dishes and let everyone add their own. Now the real fun begins-I don’t have a wok and I have made this for 16 people over a camp stove while camping so it is really easy. Put some oil in a hot pan and saute the garlic – maybe a minute then add the diced tofu and cook it quickly so that the outside is crispyish (yes that is a real term-I just made it up). Remove that from the pan and set aside. Now drain the noodles and add them to the pan and the sauce at the same time, then add the broth or water. Use tongs to continually turn the noodles and make sure they aren’t sticking. As they cook they will absorb the liquid-you know when you are done when the liquid that is left is thick and the noodles are a bit plumper. Now add the tofu back in and divide between 4-6 plates and have everyone come in to add their own goodies-don’t forget the fresh time wedges so they can add more zing.
If you end up making this let me know, also let me know if you have any questions or if you take photos (please).
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First off let’s get a few things straight: Native Foods Café does not know who I am and I have paid full price for every morsel that I have eaten there. I am a long time vegetarian and newer vegan. I am not a big fan of “fake” meat although I dislike real meat even more.
Online ordering is so slick-really like that my order was completely ready and I was easily able to add more items once I got to the restaurant. At home with my really really large Wellington I just popped it into the preheated oven on a cookie sheet and started to distract myself with things to do so I wouldn’t open the oven every few minutes.
About half way through the cooking I started heating the “Hollandaise” sauce at an extremely low temperature on top of the stove. That helped with the oven opening issue that I personally had wanting to see it every few minutes.
Finally it was time to pull it out and let it stand for ten minutes. All through the cooking I wasn’t smitten with the aroma that was wafting out of the oven but you never know. I cut that bad boy in half so I could save some for tomorrow’s lunch, but wow that thing is huge. I finally cut a generous slice for myself and left the rest for the others in the household to deal with themselves. I poured the sauce over the slice, which didn’t slice like the photo but really who cares. The sauce isn’t Hollandaise, but it is good-I kept tasting it all through the heating up process. (Next time I might add some more of my own lemon to it.)
This is rich way richer than what I normally eat as a vegan or even what I ate as a vegetarian. This would wow most meat eaters in the richness department. The blend of the carrots (adds some sweetness), the mushrooms (adds in a smoky flavor), the Native seitan (adds a salty flavor) mixed tithe the “puff” pastry, spring greens and lemony tarragon sauce made for some really delicious eating. I even had another slice.
Some downsides: the sauce took longer to heat up than I expected, it is salty and there is a ton of it. I will be taking another one of these to Easter dinner at my parent’s house next week (along with the chocolate pie that Native Foods Café sells) and serve it to vegans (my husband and I) a vegetarian (my daughter) and a large group of meat eaters. Granted it will be one of many dishes to choose from but I believe it will be a hit with everyone even those that are hard of hearing and don’t know that it is vegan.