The Most Unhealthy Thing I’ve Ever Made (aka Nate Cake)

One of Queenie’s friends, Nate, recently celebrated a birthday, and I attempted to make him the cake of his dreams in honor of the day.  Yes, his dream cake.  Some months ago, our families sat around a table, wistfully discussing some of the most delicious things we’d ever eaten and dreaming up the most delicious things we could imagine eating.  During this discussion, Nate declared that the ultimate cake would contain the following:  a layer of Twinkies, a layer of frosting, a brownie layer, a layer of whipped cream, and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

My stomach turns slightly just typing that, but we decided that if that’s what he wants, that’s what he’s going to get, veganized of course!

The first layer presented the first challenge because Twinkies are definitely not vegan.  Like most (if not all) of the Hostess snack line, they contain beef fat (or tallow), so we were going to have to find or make a vegan version.  Thankfully, our fabulous local vegan grocery store, Vegan Haven, carries Dillos, and they had enough in stock to create Nate’s first dream layer.  In case you’re not fortunate enough to live near Vegan Haven, here’s a link to help you track them down:

https://store.veganessentials.com/dillos-creme-filled-snack-cakes-by-cakewalk-baking-co-p2706.aspx

Next up, I made the classic vanilla buttercream frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero and put it in the ‘fridge while I got things ready.  You should own this book, but if you don’t, here’s the recipe:

http://www.food.com/recipe/vegan-basic-vanilla-fluffy-buttercream-frosting-453377

Next up, I made the brownie recipe from Chloe Coscarelli’s Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, and it turned out great.  Because it was larger than the amount of space that would be taken up by the “Twinkie” layer, I had to do a little figuring and cutting to make it just right.

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First I just sat the wrapped Dillos on top of the brownies to eyeball what I’d need to do.  Next, I spread a layer of the frosting on a cake pan, figuring that this would not only be tasty (more frosting!), but it would also serve to anchor the Dillos.

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Once I placed the Dillos on the frosting, that gave me the dimensions of the cake and what size to trim the brownie layer.  Measuring happened.

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The next step was to thoroughly frost the Dillo layer, including all of the cracks and crevices.  Frosting, frosting and more frosting.

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I placed the brownie layer atop the frosted Dillos very carefully…

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… and frosted the sides of the brownie layer to make it seem like one cohesive cake.  I left the top unfrosted because it gets a different treatment (but it would also work to frost the whole thing).

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I left the cake like this until right before serving, at which point I topped it with whipped cream, which needed to stay cold until we were ready to serve.  Specifically, I used So Delicious Coco Whip, which I had never used before.  Oh my – love it!  Light, fluffy, divine.  I bought it frozen at Vegan Haven and then thawed it in the refrigerator, where it sat until its big moment.  Here’s some info about it:

http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products/coconut-milk-frozen-desserts/cocowhip-original

Once I’d spread a nice, thick layer of the Coco Whip on top of the brownie, I drizzled chocolate sauce (Santa Cruz Organic Chocolate Syrup) on top.

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I honestly only thought that Nate and Queenie would dare to try this messy creation, but all of the adults, myself included, dug in as well.  It was surprisingly tasty and unsurprisingly nausea-inducing!  That’s a whole lot of sugar for my constitution.  But the guest of honor was happy, so I put this in the win column!  If you have a sugar fiend in your midst, he or she might just like it, too.

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Enjoy!  xo

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Battle of the Breakfast Tacos

In one corner, we have the “Diner Breakfast Tacos” from Eat Like You Give a Damn by Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten; and in the other corner, we have the “Supreme Bacon, Scramble and Cheese Tacos” from The Taco Cleanse by Wes Allison, Stephanie Bogdanich, Molly R. Frisinger and Jessica Morris.  Who will be named the champ?  Let’s find out…

The Diner Breakfast Tacos come out swinging with a delicious single-pan taco filling concoction comprised of potatoes, onion, vegan sausage, tofu, spinach and spices.  It comes together beautifully.  Quite swoon-worthy.

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But the secret weapon of this taco is baking the tortillas with some cheese shreds before filling.  Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

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Put these together, and it’s quite a one-two punch.  The recipe calls for adding salsa, sour cream and/or avocado, all of which would be fun but none of which are necessary.  These tacos are delightful as is.

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And what does the Supreme Bacon, Scramble and Cheese Taco have up its sleeve?  While the tacos above are light and nimble on their feet, happy to spar and trade jabs, these Supreme Tacos are big, heavy sluggers.  Three different components come together in a corn tortilla, and it’s quite a feast.  First, there’s tasty tempeh bacon cubes with a perfectly balanced, scrumptious mix of flavors.

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Next comes a deliciously flavored tofu “scramble” that goes heavy on the nutritional yeast (yum!).  The word scramble is in quotes because this is a baked tofu treatment, and while the authors call it a scramble, it’s certainly not a traditional one.  It is, however, wonderful and quite simple to prepare.

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The final filling element for this taco is a cheese sauce.  There are recipes for home-made sauces in the book, and I bet they’re great, but I used the Heidi Ho Organics Creamy Chia Cheeze, which never disappoints and takes two seconds to heat up.

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Put all of that together and you’ve got a knockout punch of taste and texture.

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So who gets the trophy?  I’ve conferred with the judges and it’s… a TIE!  These are both insanely good tacos that will make you happy at any time of day (breakfast tacos for dinner has become quite popular around here).  While they are very different, they are both perfect.  It simply comes down to what you’re in the mood for.

I recommend picking up both books (every recipe I’ve made from both of them has been excellent), but if you google these specific recipes, you’ll find them reprinted in something that seems to be called google books.  I am not familiar with this platform and don’t know if it’s done with author permission, so I’m not linking here, but it’s easily located if you’re so inclined.  But again, BUY THESE BOOKS!

Enjoy!  xo

Chickenless Noodle Soup

This recipe is called “No-Bird Noodle Soup” in the book from which it hails, Eat Like You Give a Damn:  Recipes for the New Ethical Vegan by Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten.  Before we get into the recipe that I’m featuring today, I must spend a few moments telling you how FANTASTIC this cookbook is!!!  Seriously fantastic.  Must-end-up-in-your-collection fantastic.

The authors are the creators of the Herbivore clothing line and the owners and proprietors of the Herbivore shop in Portland, Oregon.  If you’re ever in Portland, you’ll be happy if you make a point of visiting their store, which is full of their creations, as well as other snazzy vegan finds such as bags, belts, wallets, jewelry and quite possibly the most comprehensive vegan cookbook selection on the planet.  Luckily for you, you can also visit them online:

http://www.herbivoreclothing.com/

On a recent visit to Portland, I picked up the Eat Like You Give a Damn book at the store and I am thrilled that I did.  I have now made eight recipes from the book, and all eight are spectacular.  Not just pretty good, GREAT!  That’s an abnormally high ratio of awesome.  To make your mouth water, I will tell you that I’ve made the Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Walnuts, Apricots, and Garlic Aioli; the Smoky Cauliflower Soup with Fennel, Carrot, and Potato; the Herbivore Chili (that is so good my daughter, who doesn’t really like chili, had two bowls for dinner and then asked for it in her lunch the next day); the Savory Chickpea Pancakes; the Curry-Barbecue Soy Curls Bowl; the Classic Skillet Cornbread; and the Don’t-Be-Blue Cheese Dressing.

And, of course, the No-Bird Noodle Soup that I want to share with you today.  The flavors in this recipe come together to create a wholly satisfying bowl of deliciousness, one that is very reminiscent of my (somewhat distant) memories of what chicken noodle soup is supposed to taste like.  All I know for sure is that I loved it and my family happily slurped it up.  Let me walk you through the components, and there’s a link with specifics at the bottom…

Standing in for the chicken chunks are some tasty, happy, cruelty-free tofu chunks that have been sizzled with nutritional yeast and tamari.

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Next you’ll be creating the comforting soup base, with its herbed broth and chunks of carrots, celery and onion.  To this, you will add angel hair or spaghetti.

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The last step is to add in the tofu cubes and any nice brown bits from the pan, and you will end up with a delicious bowl of soup that resembles this:

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I found the recipe at this blog, which seems to be authorized (the blog’s author received an advance copy to review), so I’m sharing it here.  But PLEASE, run don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and get this book!  I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Tofu ‘Chicken’ Noodle Soup

Enjoy!  xo

Scrambled Tortillas

If you’re looking for a hearty dish to make on a wintry weekend, look no further than this one, which hails from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s terrific book, Vegan Brunch.  It’s not the most photogenic dish (as the author notes, it “might not photograph well but is darn hard to stop eating”), but don’t hold that against it.  It’s somewhat unique and super tasty.  Try it – you’ll see!

First, you steam corn tortillas and then fry them up in a pan with onions and jalapeno.

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Then you add soft tofu to the mix until everything’s coated.

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Meanwhile, you will be doing two things.  First, steaming sliced potatoes:

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Second, making a quick sauce that is basically seasoned tomato sauce (featuring garlic, cumin, oregano and chili powder):

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At this point, the tortilla mixture should be getting nice browned bits.  (Be sure to use a very thin spatula so that you don’t lose this yumminess on the bottom of your pan).  While the outside of the tortillas is browning, rest assured that the inside is tender and scrumptious.

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The final step is to fold the steamed potatoes into the tortillas.  Once they are mixed, dish it out and top with the sauce and anything else you’d like (guacamole and vegan sour cream come to mind).

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Enjoy!  xo

 

The Final Day of Vegan MoFo!

Since today is September 30, the last day of the month, it is also the last day of the blogging whirlwind known as Vegan MoFo.  This was my first year participating, and I’m so glad I did.  Not only was the goal of blogging every single day a fun one to set for myself, it was a wonderful opportunity to be introduced to lots of other blogs and delicious recipes and kindred spirits.  Couldn’t be more pleased with how the month went.

Today also marks Queenie’s first day at her new school here in the Pacific Northwest.  It’s a big day for us.  We spent last year as “unschoolers” (or life learners, or whatever other label you want to use), traveling around and having fun in a decidedly unorthodox way.  Before that, our life was in Los Angeles.  So today feels really big and different and new and exciting.

Today’s post is about the food connected with this big day, namely the lunch I packed for Queenie’s first day of school.  I love packing lunch for her, making sure she is nourished in body (with the food) and spirit (with all of the love and hugs I pack with the food).  Today’s lunch:

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Since the weather here is quite different from LA, she requested that a warm soup be involved, so I made our favorite potato leek soup from the Moosewood Celebrates cookbook.  She also has home-made hummus and carrots from our CSA, crunchy green grapes, Earth Balance “cheesy” vegan popcorn, and a little bag of checkerboard cookies that we picked up at the Vegan Haven bake sale yesterday.  Finally, there’s a love note from me, so she knows I’m thinking of her, which I will be all day.

Thanks for following along during Vegan MoFo.  I look forward to staying connected, albeit more sporadically.

xo

Vegan MoFo 22: This guy’s a cupcake genius!!

One of the fun things about participating in the Vegan Month of Food has been seeing all of the wonderful posts on other people’s blogs.  I have been inspired by many people, but there is one blog that consistently drops my jaw more than any other:  the vegan kitchen of dr. caligari.

The mad genius behind this blog is putting together cupcake combinations that I hadn’t heard of before.  I’m not sure whether mere mortals can successfully execute these recipes, but I’m looking forward to finding out soon!  Some of the ones that have jumped out at me:

Double Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Whiskey Frosting

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Shepherd’s Cupcakes

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Vanilla Cream Cupcakes with Meringue and Strawberry Coulis

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There are too many to list.  Just hop on his site and take a look yourself.  He’s turning just about everything you can think of into cupcakes:  baklava, burritos, English breakfast, eggplant parmigiana… I’m serious!  Really fun and gorgeous.  Can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

http://thevegankitchenofdrcaligari.wordpress.com/

Enjoy!  xo

Wabi-Sabi

My husband, Mr. Man, was recently having dinner with an old friend and the friend’s new wife, someone Mr. Man had never met before. According to Mr. Man, the dinner was a bit trying, as the wife seemed distant and bored, contributing little. Whether she was shy or merely dull, Mr. Man couldn’t say.

At some point during the course of the evening, Mr. Man shared that Queenie and I are vegan, at which point the wife suddenly perked up, her eyes wide, as she said wistfully: “They must be so skinny.” After being momentarily dumbfounded, Mr. Man pointed out that Queenie is only 11 and looks like a healthy 11-year-old. As for me, he said that no, in fact I am not skinny, nor would he want me to be, at which point the wife’s gaze promptly unfocused and she checked back out of the conversation.

When he relayed this experience to me, I was momentarily dumbfounded, too. I think it’s probably safe to assume that the wife has some kind of “issues” around body image or food, etc. However, since I’ve never met her and likely never will, I can’t say for sure that this is the case, so there’s not much use speculating about it.

What I can say for sure is that our culture as a whole has some seriously warped views of what a healthy female body looks like and ought to look like. I’m not breaking new ground to say that the images that women and girls routinely see on screen and in print are extremely limited and come nowhere near to presenting the reality of shapes and sizes that the healthy female body actually comes in. And I’m not having a lightbulb moment when I suggest that this limited, skewed view is potentially unhealthy and damaging to those constantly bombarded by it, who end up holding this image up as an ideal that they strive to attain. Even though these thoughts aren’t particularly original, I do think they’re important. It’s vital that we shift the way our society views the female body. Since we don’t have a magic wand handy and can’t instantly make the whole world change, I’d like to suggest that we need to do this one person at a time, starting right here, right now. How, you ask? Let’s think about some specifics…

Let’s start by choosing wisely what images to ingest. While billboards and bus ads are hard to avoid, I urge you to select your media carefully. A constant diet of unreasonable images can’t help but penetrate your consciousness and do a number in there. Choose substance over flash. Celebrate accomplishment and wit and vivacity over vapid, blank photoshopped stares. Opt for the New Yorker over Marie Claire. Read an article from dailygood.org instead of one from People. Choose media health food over media junk.IMG_0105

Now that you’ve shifted what media you invite into your life, the next step is to be very aware of what’s still crashing the party. The limited images of women that we’re talking about are everywhere. It might be a magazine that you pick up at the doctor’s office, those aforementioned billboards and bus ads, or the latest movie you’ve gone to see with your friends. Since it’s impossible to eliminate the bombardment entirely, it’s important to see these images through a more informed, critical lens. Acknowledge what you’re seeing, whether just to yourself or to your companion. Just saying, “Wow, did you notice that all of the women in this film were the exact same shape and size?” is a good start. And rather than thinking that there’s something deficient in you or your circle of friends if you don’t all happen to look like what’s up on the screen, flip that thought around… the limitation is in the portrayal. Talk about that, too.

Once in a while, something that does look more like real life comes along, and I think it’s important to support the creative people who are brave enough to show us something different than the standard-issue female imagery. Here I can think of no better example than Lena Dunham and her ground-breaking show, Girls. While her fellow cast-mates look about how you’d expect twenty-somethings on an HBO show to look, Ms. Dunham rather famously does not. She isn’t perfectly toned. She sometimes has mussed hair or dark shadows under her eyes. In other words, she looks like someone you might bump into on the street. Hallelujah! And she has the courage to bare her perfectly imperfect body in pretty much every episode, in all its glory. Huge swaths of the public have rejoiced, clinging to these images like the self-esteem life-preservers they are for many young women. To the networks, I say: take note! We want to see real women looking like real women, wearing real clothes that sometimes ride up and need to be pulled back out, as Dunham’s character, Hannah, is wont to do.

Sadly, not everyone celebrates the presence of this refreshing character. There are quite a few vocal commentators, with nothing but negative comments about Ms. Dunham’s body, and to them I say: I am sorry for you, just like I was sorry for the woman with whom Mr. Man dined. I’m sorry that you have so internalized the messages and images you’ve lived with that you are left with no ability to appreciate anything else. I’m sorry that you’ve allowed yourself to be programmed to such an extent that you couldn’t get your mind around the premise of a recent episode of Girls in which someone who looks like the actor Patrick Wilson (an actor with a “perfect” body) would have sex with someone who looks like Ms. Dunham, as if nothing other than physical appearance could create an attraction between two people. I’m sorry for you, and I’m sorry because your acceptance of these messages hurts all of us. I implore you to break out of the prison you’ve allowed yourself to be locked into. Believe it or not, you already hold the key to that lock. Trust me, I know.

At 5’9”, I used to be a “perfect” size, the size of runway models, somewhere between a zero and a 2. I reached and maintained that size at great expense to my physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. Thankfully, that was a long, long time ago. Now, I am far from that size, and I am a whole lot healthier and happier. I have lots of squishy parts in the places they like to form, namely the belly, upper arms and neck. They are Queenie’s absolute favorite patches and she has dubbed them “beep” (neck beep, arm beep, etc.). She loves to squeeze and pat them. They are a joyous marvel to her. Once, about 7 years ago, as she was gently squeezing my neck, she asked, “Mama, how did this beep get so plump and ripe?” To her, it is perfection, like a just-picked peach on a summer day.

I could easily look in the mirror and hone in on these plump patches as areas that need work. I could fret about them and feel bad about them. But I don’t. I see these body parts as wonderful reminders of motherhood and womanhood and reality. I like what I see in the mirror, not because it measures up to any conventional standard of beauty, but because it is me. Right this second, that’s what I look like, and I don’t want to waste this second thinking about what my life would be like if my stomach were more taut or my neck longer or any other such silly distraction.

I wish for you the gift of seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you as deeply and unconditionally as Queenie loves me. And guess what, you don’t need to be the mother of a kid who worships fat cells to get there. The person whose eyes I’m talking about is YOU. I wish you the gift of looking in the mirror and loving what you see. Do you see crinkles next to your eyes when you smile kindly? Do you see hands that lovingly tend a garden? Do you see breasts that nursed your baby? Whatever the particulars, you see YOU, in all of your perfectly imperfect glory. You should be able to rattle off a long list of fabulous things that your body is doing for you in this life. If that list doesn’t pop readily to mind at first, write it down to remind you, and think about this list often. If you really do this, REALLY appreciate yourself, you’ll be able to shed the programmed voices of negativity in your head. You will carry forward into the world a confidence and self-acceptance and peace that will radiate out to others. It will reach our daughters and set a positive example of how to be a woman in this world. It will counterbalance the narrow images the media generally provides. This is big stuff.

For me, I’m going to keep celebrating the brave ones who put themselves out there. I’m going to celebrate the perfectly imperfect. I’m not going to critique women based on their size, even silently to myself. And I’m going to keep on processing all of this stuff with Queenie, so that she keeps thinking and believing and knowing that the ideal for a human, not just a woman, is to be strong, healthy, confident and happy, no matter what size.734858_10200443387551559_1217105735_n

And lest you think that normal-sized women only get the Patrick Wilsons of the world in the fantasy-land of television, here’s what Patrick Wilson’s actual wife, Dagmara Dominczyk, tweeted in response to all of the hoopla surrounding the Girls episode:

“Funny, his wife is a size 10, muffin top & all & he does her just fine. Least that’s what I hear 😉 rule #1 – never say never.”

Rock the power of self-acceptance and see what comes your way!