Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Four-legged Vegans in the House?

Now, my cat ate a squashed pea off of the kitchen floor the other day, and he's been known to snack on house plants from time to time, but unlike some vegans out there, I will not insist on trying to turn my perfectly lovely 9-pound carnivorous tabby into a vegan.

There's ethics about what your yourself eat, and then there's a step into Crazyland.

At some point, we have to accept the facts: cats are carnivores, from their sharp teeth to their razor-like claws to the chemical makeup of their stomach juices and length of their intestinal tract. Forcing them to an all-plant diet because you don't want animals to suffer is ludicrous. You'll only be passing the suffering onto your beloved pet.

Now I know that the anti-vegans out there will take this argument and project it onto humans and make wild claims about meat as an essential ingredient for human development, but even that is a subject of fierce debate. Did we evolve as scavengers? Was our brain development contingent on adding meat proteins to our diet? etc etc etc

My own personal belief is that for people, it is a different issue. We can survive without meat; unless there is scientific evidence of which I am unaware, conventional wisdom states that cats and dogs, as carnivores, can not. For people, it is a choice to abstain from meat for whatever reason, be it health, ethics or even aesthetics.

Making that choice for your pet can't be healthy. I don't know of any vets who propose a vegetable-based diet for animals.

I do agree that the pet food industry has been tainted by association with the meat-packing industry and the factory farming model. The leftover bits of livestock are ground up for pet food, and considering the quality of the "mechanically separated meat" that ends up in our tinned meats and soups for human consumption, I can not begin to imagine the meat that's leftover for our pets!

I do understand the desire not to participate in supporting the industrialized food model, but I can not put my pet's health at risk to do so. I haven't really researched organic pet foods - Hell, I don't know if they even exist - but I'd like to see what I can do to avoid Purina and other companies which I imagine use the dregs from the killing floors of the big slaughterhouses.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sweet Potato Fries

I've been down lately, and true to form, when slightly depressed, have been running into the comforting arms of carbs. My latest carb-obsession has not been desserts or home-baked breads, but instead, sweet potato fries.

I know, I know, like who really needs a recipe for this, right? I thought I'd share it anyway.

I like my sweet potato fries with a bit of a kick. I love the sweet and spicy flavors together. I tried making these with creole seasoning last week, but they were far too salty, so I switched back to my standard Old Bay until I can hunt down a creole seasoning blend which has less salt in it.

Sweet Potato Fries with Spicy Mayo

  • 1 sweet potato, sliced into matchsticks
  • Olive oil
  • Old Bay

  • veganaise
  • whole grain mustard
  • Old Bay

  1. Preheat oven to 425.

  2. Slice the sweet potato into batards/matchsticks NOT julienne slices.

  3. Toss in a bolw with a generous amount of olive oil and a good tablespoon of Old Bay.

  4. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray (I like grapeseed oil for high temperatures).

  5. Spread out the sweet potatoes in one even layer.

  6. Bake for 15 minutes, take out and flip them and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

  7. While they're baking, mix the ingredients for your spicy mayo, seasoning to taste, then devour.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mini Key Lime Pies

These were oh-so-good. If you are expecting some unnaturally green plasticky pie, this is not it. Try a lime gelatin pie for that. :p

Mini Key Lime Pies

makes 6

  • 1/2 package silken tofu
  • 2 T agave nectar
  • 1 T arrowroot powder
  • 3 T Key Lime Juice

  • 6 mini graham cracker crusts, prepared or homemade

  • Turbinado sugar (for garnish)
  • Lime (for garnish)


  1. Preheat oven to 375.

  2. Place the 6 mini graham cracker crusts on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.

  3. Place the tofu and agave nectar in a bowl. Whisk together well.*See Notes below.

  4. Add the key lime juice and continue to whisk briskly.

  5. Add the arrowroot powder (or tapioca starch) and stir until well mixed.

  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared crusts.

  7. Bake for 25 minutes. Take out and let cool on a rack, then chill for at least 2 hours.

  8. Sprinkle the top with turbinado sugar and slices of lime.

  9. Eat and faint from joy.

  • This is the first time I've made any sort of dessert with silken tofu, so I am still getting a feel for it.

  • They were very tasty, but I think that I did not whisk well enough, because the texture wasn't the perfectly smooth and creamy custard of the non-vegan Key Lime Pie. It was a bit grainy, which I think I could overcome by whisking more, or even using an electric mixer.

  • The flavor was wonderful- sweet and tart, no hint of "tofu-ness" which puts a lot of people off desserts with silken tofu. The key lime flavor really bursts forward in this recipe.

  • If you would like a full-sized, 9-inch pie, double the filling recipe and add 10-15 minutes' baking time.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Day 53: Mock Crabcakes

I saw a recipe for mock crabcakes made with tempeh at the Post Punk Kitchen. The thought of using tempeh instead of tofu, like most of the recipes I found, intrigued me. I made some changes to the recipe to keep it closer to the original Maryland crabcakes I used to make when we lived in southern Maryland in our little house by the Chesapeake Bay. *wistful sigh*

The Old Bay seasoning is essential. I swear, it's in everything down there. We would joke that new transplants to the state would get a huge tin of the stuff in their welcome basket, along with a diagram on the only correct way to pick crabs. My ex got to using Old Bay in place of paprika in his Saturday morning homefries. It adds a nice bit of bite and spicy flavor to the potatoes.

Another change I made was adding crushed Saltines, although Ritz crackers would have been my first choice. I remember talking to someone down in Maryland who swore that Ritz crackers were the super-secret ingredient for the perfect crabcake.

While the original recipe looks tasty, I can't recall ever eating a real Chesapeake Bay crab cake that had bell pepper in them. Celery and minced onion, yes. Then again, there have got to be as many ways to craft the perfect crabcake as there are cooks. I wanted to recapture the essence of the crabcakes I remembered.

This recipe came pretty close. The texture of the tempeh is nice, much closer to real lump crabmeat than tofu would ever do, in my opinion.

Mock Crabcakes


  • 8 ounces tempeh
  • water to cover
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg's liquid aminos
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Frank's Red Hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 cup minced onion, rehydrated
  • 2 stalks celery, minced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
  • 8 Saltines, crushed
  • 1 handful toasted nori, crumbled
  • Panko breadcrumbs

  • Spicy mayo:

  • 3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Frank's Red Pepper hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning


  1. Crumble the tempeh into a sauce pan. Pour in enough water to cover the tempeh. Add the Bragg's, olive oil and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, uncover and let boil for 12 minutes. Stir occasionally. Drain well.

  2. Transfer contents to a mixing bowl, remove bay leaf, and mash with a potato masher. Let sit and cool for about 15 minutes.

  3. Toss in the minced onion and celery and mix well. Add the crushed saltines and crumbled nori and stir well. Fold in the mayo, mustard, hot sauce, Old Bay Seasoning and mix thoroughly.

  4. Fill the bottom of a pie plate with panko breadcrumbs. Take a small handful of the tempeh mixture and form into a ball. Press them into the panko crumbs in the pie pan and flatten them. Coat the top and sides well. Be careful with these cakes, as they will fall apart with rough handling.

  5. Gently put about four cakes in a large oiled skillet, frying them over medium-high heat. Fry the cakes for about 5 minutes on one side until (GB&D) golden brown and delicious. Fry for 2 minutes on the other side and transfer to a plate. While the second batch is frying, whip up the spicy mayo by mixing all the ingredients together.

  6. Top each cake with a generous dollop of the mayo and eat while still warm.

  • This recipe made 8 generous-sized crabcakes. You could make them much smaller for hors d'oeurvres.

  • They are very fragile. I had to use two spatulas to turn them. I would not recommend turning them more than once. Make sure that you let them cook longer on the first side and come to a nice GB&D state before flipping.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Day 52: A Touch of Autumn

It's been cool and rainy here lately. This morning especially, I got a hint of fall on the breeze, and even though I know it's only temporary, I thought I'd celebrate this autumnal mood with apples. I'm also down to the scraping the barrel of the fridge and pantry. I really need to get to the grocery store soon, but I love those days when I have to take stock of what I've got in hand and see what I can whip up. Honestly, I've made some of the best meals that way.

Today it was individual apple crisps. The girls said that I need to make those again, so next time I'll have a photo. Also, bear in mind, I was tossing things together as I went, so my measurements this time are inexact.

Maple- Brown sugar Apple Crisps


  • 2 apples - I used 1 Granny Smith and 1 Jonamac. With my apple pies I like a mixture of sweet and tart apples. These make a nice combination.
  • 2 T pure maple syrup
  • 3 T brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 T wheat germ
  • vegan margarine (or butter if you're not a vegan)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Peel and slice the apples into very thin slices.

  3. Place into a bowl and drizzle with maple syrup.

  4. Add the brown sugar and stir well. Taste to adjust. You may like it sweeter or more mapley.

  5. Put the mixture into greased ramekins. This made enough for three.

  6. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until coarsely ground.

  7. Add the oats and pulse again until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.

  8. Dump this mixture into the same bowl that held the apple mixture. The bowl should still have some of the maple syrup/brown sugar mixture in it. Stir well to mix in all the syrup.

  9. Add about 1/4 cup of brown sugar (I usually add it in tablespoon increments and taste as I go) and mix well. I like to add a tablespoon or two of wheat germ too.

  10. Cut in about 2 T of butter or vegan margarine. (I like Earth Balance) and work with your hands or a pasty cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

  11. Divide between the three ramekins, packing down the crumb topping firmly.

  12. Bake in a 375 oven for 25 minutes or until it's bubbling nicely around the edges.

  13. Take out and let cool on a rack for a bit and then serve warm topped with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 46: Strong Hearts Cafe

Well, as I predicted yesterday, I could barely wait until 11 am to try out the vegan cafe in my city. I dragged the girls off with me for a vegan luncheon. I promised them pizza, only to discover that I had not read the menu very well. They serve pizza on Friday nights from 6pm until 2 am only. Oops. That elicited a bit of sulkiness from my Tween-in-training, but I snagged a few menus and pointed out to her that they served breakfast all day and emphasized the long list of milkshakes and she was ok.

In the end, Natalie had waffles topped with powdered sugar, fresh strawberries and real maple syrup and washed it down with a huge pumpkin milkshake. That milkshake tasted like a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, oh my! Lucy opted for a BLT using the fak'n bacon stuff, vegan cheese (Teese), vegannaise, lettuce and tomato on grilled whole wheat bread, and to drink, had a thick, creamy blueberry milkshake. I had a TLT: a generous slab of marinated, baked tofu with tomato, lettuce, sprouts, pesto & vegannaise on grilled whole wheat bread. Although the milkshakes were tempting, I had a yerba mate after finding out that they'd sold out of my first choice Thai Iced Tea.

The verdict: Delicious. The girls loved their food too, and any mom, vegan or otherwise, can tell you, that's no mean feat.

The sandwiches came solo, unaccompanied by chips, fries or even a small salad, so the prices were a bit, well, pricey for simple sandwiches, but I'm ok with it, and let me tell you why. This place is 100% vegan, and it's rare that a restaurant offers any vegetarian items at all, let alone any vegan offerings. I'm more than happy to support them. Sure, I won't be eating there every week, but I don't eat out anywhere every week, but when I do go out, I will be going there instead of spending my money elsewhere.

I am happy to spread the love; in fact, I told my sister-in-law about the place today. She hadn't heard about it either. They've been open for a little over a year now, and are going strong. I hope that they continue to do well. We could use more places like this.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day 45: Dining Out

I've only dined out twice since I've made this switch. The Thai restaurant had a whole vegetarian section filled with tofu and vegetables and when I asked if there were hidden animal products like broth, the waitress told me that it was all totally vegan. The Friendly's menu, on the other hand, was not terribly vegetarian-friendly, let alone vegan-safe. Nevertheless, they accommodated my request to un-cheese my veggie fajita quesadilla and it was pretty tasty. I rarely eat out, so it hadn't really occurred to me that this would be quite the ordeal.

I did a little bit of online searching and found the Vegan Eating Out Guide, which researches popular sit-down restaurants and fast food chains and details what, exactly, on their menus is vegan. Some restaurants, like Red Robin, Hooter's, Denny's and TGI Fridays, offer nothing. Nope, not even a fruit cup, a bowl of plain oatmeal or a green salad. I was stunned, really. I had figured that vegan dining out would be an exercise largely reduced to a plate of anemic-looking iceberg lettuce passing itself off as a "green salad" or picking and choosing from side dishes, but for some restaurants to have nothing free of animal products, like not even a baked potato, for God's sake, well, that's an eye-opener.

Panera and Au Bon Pain, on the other hand, had some soups and sandwiches which were either already vegan as-is or could be made so simply by omitting the cheese.

I was surprised and disappointed to discover that Ruby Tuesday's Veggie Burger was no longer listed. A few more searches on Google later, and I found that they had switched suppliers and their veggie burger mix had mayonnaise in it. So now, the only stand-alone vegan offering on their menu is their salad bar. I did not become a vegan so that I could be relegated to eating salads wherever I went. Is it really that difficult for a restaurant to add a grilled portobello mushroom sandwich to the menu? I'm not asking for fake meats or seitan, here.

I was perusing the Vegan Eating Guide's of fast food restaurants which serves 100% vegan foods and saw that there was one listed in New York. I clicked on it, wondering what in the world a fast food vegan restaurant could possibly be like and I nearly fell over.

The link took me to a place called Strong Hearts Cafe, the largest vegan cafe in New York state outside of New York city, and it's right here in Syracuse.

How the Hell did I not know this?!

Now I am so excited I can barely stand it. They have a full breakfast, lunch and PIZZA menu! I told the girls that we would go there soon for pizza. Hell, let's see if I can wait as long as 11 am.

They have milkshakes, soups, salads, sandwiches and.... did I mention the pizza?

You can expect my review as soon as I've gone there. Check out their menus here.
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