Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sun-dried Tomato Hummus

I've been snowed in for several days with my husband and my kids, so I have been making lots of food. In addition to baking bread, I've had my crockpot churning out lentil and rice, marinara sauce simmering on the stove, and pasta boiling. But sometimes we all just want to grab a snack or make a sandwich, for which I made my simple sun-dried tomato hummus. It reminds us a little bit of pizza, it's that good. We spread it on bread, dip crackers into it, and wrap it up in romaine leaves.

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

1 15 oz. can chick peas
1/4 cup tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
7 sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil

Combine chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt in food processor until smooth. If lumpy, add water a tablespoon at a time and pulse until desired consistency. Add sundried tomatoes, oregano and basil and process again until smooth.

Garnish with: fresh basil leaf, slice of fresh tomato, chopped black olives, or chopped garlic.
Will last in refrigerator for several days.

Olive Rosemary Bread for my new Breadmaker

For Christmas, I received a bread maker. I can't for the life of me explain why I have never gotten one before. Seven people live in this house, and we all eat a lot of bread. Better late than never, I suppose.

My first attempt at bread failed. After that, I followed directions ex-act-ly from recipes I found on the internet for vegan breadmaker breads. No substitutions. No experiments. My results were much better for plain whole wheat, white, and oat loaves.

Feeling confident, I decided to use the same ratios of liquids-to-solids for the breads I'd already made and try my hand at an original olive-rosemary bread. While it was baking, the herbs scented the whole house. It turned out better than I had hoped. The kids couldn't wait to cut into it, but after an initial taste, I held them off long enough to snap a photo.

Lynne's Recipe for Olive and Rosemary Bread-maker bread (yields large 1/12 - 2 lb loaf)

1 1/2 c plus 2 tbsp.warm water
4 Tbsp. olive oil
3 tsp sugar
3 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
3 1/2 c bread flour
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/2 c chopped pitted kalamata olives

Put in water, oil, sugar, salt, pepper, flour in order (or in manufacturer-suggested order). Make a well with finger in center of flour. Add yeast. Set machine for "white" or "basic" and "medium" crust. Start machine. After approximately 40 minutes ("rise"), add rosemary, oregano, basil and olives. Make sure all ingredients are added in (use rubber spatula to scrape any off sides or bottom).

Let cool. Slice. Serve with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or sun-dried tomato hummus.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Believe in You

In Tina Fey’s fourth Emmy acceptance speech, she self-deprecatingly credited her parents. “I want to thank my parents for somehow raising me to have confidence that is disproportionate with my looks and abilities. Well done. That is what all parents should do.” Tina Fey entered the precarious, male-dominated field of comedy. Her parents could have discouraged her. They could have told her she wasn't pretty enough, or talented enough, or that the field was simply too hard to enter.

My own intelligent 20 year old daughter, Julia, could succeed as a diplomat, an international business leader, and a network executive. Her work ethic is unparalleled and she has a multitude of skills and knowledge. She has a 3.8 at the University of Massachusetts with a double major. Her plan: to be a Disney princess! This is the same dream she had when she was four.

Is it a parent’s role to unconditionally support a child’s decisions? Or is it the parent’s responsibility to protect the child from making mistakes? I think it is my role to unconditionally support the decisions, regardless of my opinion of them.

Truthfully, I am nervous for her. It is possible that she won't make the cut. Maybe she will get a role but won't make enough money to pay her bills. I could tell her “That’s a frivolous career. You are too smart, serious, studious for that. Try engineering like Dad. Try accounting like your grandfather.” But I keep it to myself. To her, I say, “You’ll be an excellent princess. Let’s research how you can get a job in a Disney theme park."

There are plenty of people willing to squash a young person’s dreams. In the field of acting, there are legions of agents, casting directors, and other actors whose sole purposes seems to be to strip an actor of dignity and hope. There are well-meaning, loving people in my family, two of whom raised me (whose identity shall remain cleverly disguised), who helpfully encourage my children to pursue careers they view as more practical. But things have changed in our economy since their heyday in the 1960s. Prestigious careers of old no longer exist. Attorneys discourage their children from attending law school. Doctors warn to steer clear of medicine. All I know with certainty is that I will not know what careers will exist in five years. New careers crop up regularly. Just because we are adults does not mean we are clairvoyant. I can’t see the future. I can only see my bright, optimistic children, growing into adults.

Tina Fey’s parents could have suggested that Tina become a math teacher. Tina would still have loved them and probably thanked them in her acceptance speech. But they believed in their daughter’s ability to make her dreams come true. As a result, Tina has risen to the top in a fiercely competitive field. Against all odds, she is the Emmy-award winning creator, writer, and star of a successful network television show.

As a mother, I don’t have to believe in my children’s dreams. I have to believe in my children. There will always be well-meaning friends and relatives to burst their bubbles. I want to be the person who always, always has confidence in them. I hope if any of my kids ever win an Emmy, they will thank me for my unrelenting belief that they would make it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

On the 5th day of juice fast my stomach takes to the stage

Saturday was Day 5 of my green juice fast. I woke up to a very grumbly sound and realized that it was coming from inside me. Disturbed, I jumped out of bed to juice some carrots, kale and cucumber and drank it speedily. Rather than quieting the growl, the juice only seemed to feed the beast. It had somehow gotten louder, filling the entire kitchen. All day the grumbling, growling, roaring followed me around the house while I did my chores and even accompanied me on my errands.

Saturday evening, my 13 year old son and I had tickets to see an off-Broadway play entitled "In the Heat of the Night." I hoped that my loud digestive system would not disturb the two people unfortunately seated on either side of me. When we arrived at 59E59, we discovered that the theatre was an intimate black box. All the action took place in the squared off area, and we audience sat surrounding the square. My seat was in the first of the two rows on the corner from which actors passed to enter the stage. Before the show, we were informed to silence cell phones, unwrap candies, and note that if we needed to leave the theatre for any reason, we would not be allowed re-entry. It was a quiet show, one without much music, sound effects or any props, in a small, enclosed space. My grumbling continued. I glanced around, looking to see whether there was a reaction from the man sitting next to me. So far, he amazingly managed not to notice. As the show progressed, the tension mounted. The murder mystery with racist
At a particularly intense moment, a police officer took down to his knees a murder suspect and cuffed him at my feet. Then the two actors froze in that pose as other actors across the stage had dialogue. "Glurg, grrrr, roarrrrr," filled my ears. Head one foot from me, at lap level, the actor had to try hard not to react to the incredibly strange noises emitting from my gut. But I could see him looking quizzically at me. I shrugged and tilted my head, aimed at the quiet man to my right, as if it were HIS ridiculously loud innards creating havoc.

Fortunately, I was not removed from my seat. The show was outstanding. I highly recommend it. See it on a full stomach, it will save you embarrassment.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Juice Fast Day 2

The second day of my first juice fast has ended. Hunger set in yesterday evening, while I cooked dinner for the family. This experiment would work much better if I didn't have to prepare meals all day long. I stir-fried broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, and romaine lettuce together in a garlic soy sauce and scooped it over red quinoa. As a side dish, I served an Asian style salad made from crumbled uncooked ramen noodles and julienned cabbage and carrots with ginger/soy/maple syrup dressing.

Back to me. Not eating. I suppose this would be a good place to disclose that I Love To Eat! Food is a large part of my life. I like to buy food, prepare food, talk about food and eat food. This is the first time I've ever fasted in my whole life, mostly because I never felt like giving it up before. Day Two was the first day of the realization that I can live without eating.

Fortunately, I really enjoy the taste of juice. I'm also enjoying trying new combinations and flavors. After dropping off my sons for their bowling league, I ran to the supermarket for supplies. I bought a ripe watermelon, a cantaloupe, a cucumber, a tomato, some extra celery and carrots, a cabbage, and some more romaine. For "lunch," I had a romaine, cucumber, celery, tomato juice. It was a little too acidic for my tastes but gave me the energy to talk a nice long walk in the sun before the boys returned. Besides the juice, I am focusing on getting fresh air, sunshine, and exercise everyday as well. After my walk, I felt exhausted. The boys returned home and were playing in the yard, so I lay on a blanket in the grass and took a short nap in the sun. This may have been my first nap since babyhood.

At dinnertime, I drank a delicious juice of watermelon and cucumber. After dinner, and I'm not blaming the watermelon, I became very cranky. The schedule required me to drive back and forth to two different martial arts studios in two different directions, one after the other, then come home and supervise kitchen clean up and math work. But apparently, no one was in the mood to clean up the kitchen or do any math. And the last thing I wanted to do was put away the leftover food I had spent the afternoon alternately preparing and avoiding. The scene went something like this:

me: "Clean up the kitchen, boys,"
boys: "I thought you said you wanted us to do math."
me: "I wanted you to do your math earlier so you could clean up the kitchen after dinner."
boys: "We'll clean it up later."
me: "I want it done now."
boys: "Then why don't you do it?"

I hate it when the boys have a good point when I am cranky. If I wanted it done immediately while they were doing something equally important, I'd have to clean the kitchen myself, including packing up the leftovers and putting them in the refrigerator. But I could handle it, despite my grumbly tummy, and I did. Both my stomach and my mouth were grumbling. Like a child, I complained out loud while washing and drying pots. Fortunately, no one pays any attention to me when I'm like this. On the plus side, at least I didn't have to solve the math problems.

Day Three ended when I took to the bed, saying good night to the boys and insisting that they go to bed early (11:00 for the teenage night owls in this house is very early). Here is the best part, last: according to the dreaded bathroom scale, I have lost 5 pounds!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Juice Cleanse Day 1

My jeans no longer fit. I weighed myself and was appalled at the number glaring at me. I lost 30 pounds several years ago, only to have regained a large portion. Winter was long and I spent too many days indoors, eating too much pasta, rice, and other heavy foods. So it is time for a spring cleaning of myself. Yesterday I began a Green Juice Cleanse/Fast, hoping to rid my sluggish self of excess.

I read about it online. Green Juices plus herbal teas and water constitute all the "foods" I can intake. According to the experts, when the body is no longer slogged down with digesting processed foods and white foods, it can begin to expel all the clogs. As it happens, I love green juice. In the morning, I juiced a huge fistful of kale, two celery stalks and a carrot. Later in the day, I had an entire bunch of dandelion leaves, more celery, carrots, and an apple juice. That was all. Then I waited for the magic and the darker side, the dreaded side effects I'd read about on the net.

But either my new face cream is doing an awesome job of squeezing my pores shut or my toxins are good and locked inside, because so far, I have seen nothing. No evidence of detoxifying. My skin looks fine, clear and pristine. I read that there could be boils (!). I have not experienced any unpleasant explosiveness, nor do I have terrible body odor.

So Day One passed uneventfully. How much longer do I have to do this? I will take it one day at a time. Green Juice Fast Day Two is beginning simply, with lukewarm water and lemon juice. I hope I start to smell bad soon.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Inspired by Vermont and the Massachusetts World Food Market

Recently my son and I spent some time in Vermont, working, exploring towns we had never seen, and getting to know people we had never met. The company was so interesting; in fact some of the most interesting people anywhere. Talking to them was educational for both me and my son. We learned details about the sugaring process from a woman who produces her own syrup at home as a hobby. We learned a great deal about Japanese culture from a woman who lived abroad for over ten years. And we explored the terrain of St. George on a guided hike by a long-time resident.

The food we ate was also stellar.

At the home of a new friend, my son and I enjoyed what is known as "Vermont Curry." Apparently, it is very common but new to us. There are many varieties. Our friend showed us the package label in Japanese and read the ingredients, all vegan. And at the home of another Vermonter, we enjoyed a delicious stir-fry which included among the farm-fresh vegetables, some canned seasoned seitan which I'd never encountered before.

During a lovely dinner at A Single Pebble in Burlington, with blogger @Cookveganlover, Lindsay, and her husband, we shared a rich, scrumptious tapioca pudding made with coconut milk. We declared that we would recreate it at home, using rice. But then I found some very nice pearl tapioca at the World Food Market in Hadley, Massachusetts. Searching the aisles, I also located the previously mentioned "Vermont Curry" blocks, which I was able to identify by sight as the package is written in Japanese. (I made sure to buy the ones that did not have cheese or honey in the ingredients.) Then I stumbled on the seasoned seitan that our friend Peg threw into her fresh vegetable stir-fry. Now I have all of the hard-to-find ingredients so I can recreate these wonderful Vermont dishes at home.

Last night, I chopped onions, celery, potatoes and carrots and threw them into a large pot with water. Adding Vermont Curry cubes (2), and boiling red rice in a separate pot, I thought I'd done exactly what needed to be done. Wrong! My curry was so much thinner and soupier than the one I'd eaten in Bristol. Sad. I had to add several tablespoons of corn starch mixed with water in order to thicken it to the desired consistency. After the thickening, it still tasted watery. So I added two more cubes for seasoning and it was just right. It yielded a ridiculously large amount, so I have lots leftover and some frozen.

I was more successful with the tapioca pudding. So I will share that recipe here.

Tapioca Pudding

1/2 cup pearl tapioca
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegan cane sugar
2 tablespoon corn starch
3 tablespoons warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest

Combine pearl tapioca and milks and salt in saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Slowly add sugar while stirring. Beat corn starch and warm water with a fork, add to pan. Continue stirring and heating until boiling. Allow to boil for about one minute, then lower heat. Pudding should start to thicken. Once thick, turn off heat. Add vanilla extract and orange zest and allow to cool. Can be served warm but is better chilled from refrigerator.

Makes 4 - 6 servings.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Awesome Frickin Noodle Soup

I admit it has been a long, long time since I ate a bowl of real chicken noodle soup. I think it was during my pregnancy with my daughter, who is now in college, when I had a terrible cold. My mom probably cooked it from scratch with a whole chicken and lots of fresh vegetables and herbs. This version may not be exactly like my mom's, and it certainly doesn't have any animals, whole or otherwise, floating around in it. But I swear it tastes so much like chicken noodle soup that I feel all future colds staying away. It even looks authentic, with a pretty golden color and tiny droplets of oil floating on top. If I could marry a soup, and I weren't already married to a person, this would be the one. That is how fricking awesome this soup is. And for those of you who want to enjoy a nostalgic bowl of health and happiness, here is my Valentine to my Awesome Frickin Noodle Soup. If you make it, please feel free to add the herbs your own Mom or Grandma put in her chicken soup.

one onion, chopped small
4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil to cover bottom of large pot
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
small bunch of Green Swiss Chard, leaves only, torn
1 can chick peas
1 block silken tofu, diced
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 lb. thin spaghetti broken into small pieces

Saute onion, garlic, celery and carrot for ten minutes or until celery is soft and carrots are bright. Pour in enough water to fill large soup pot 2/3 full. Add chard, chick peas, sage, thyme, and oregano. Salt and pepper to your liking. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for one to one and a half hours, covered. Bring back to boil, add spaghetti and tofu. Stir. Cook until spaghetti is soft, approx. 12 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Serve with salad and bread. As with all noodle soups, this one will taste even better the next day.

When anyone asks how you made it, answer the way I do everytime, "with magic and love."

Friday, February 26, 2010

What's In These? Confetti Blueberry Muffins

After juicing apple, kale, and carrots, I had a colorful array of pulp left in the catcher. It was so pretty: bright orange, deep green, and pinkish white stripes, I did not want to throw it in the trash. But even our pet bunny won't eat juice remains.

I decided to use the colorful palette in my blueberry muffins. The result was a dense, moist, fruity version which didn't rise as high as an ordinary muffin. It looked like there was confetti inside, causing my children to ask "What's in these?" They are slightly surprising, but very tasty.
Bonus fiber and vitamins probably increased the nutritional value, and they are low in fat because I don't use margarine or oil, but I didn't analyze them.
I just ate them. The muffins taste fine right out of the oven, but even better toasted with a swipe of tofu cream cheese.

Vegan Confetti Blueberry Muffins
(makes 12)

1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 cup pulp from apples, carrots and kale
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups frozen blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Line muffin cups with paper or grease.
3. Mix all ingredients together until moistened. The consistency will be thick and slightly wet, like cookie dough
4. Scoop into muffin cups, filling 3/4 of the way.
5. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes.
6. Cool.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spaghetti with TofuClam Sauce

Hi everyone. It's still winter here in NJ, making me want cooked comfort foods. Spaghetti and white clam sauce was one of my very favorite Italian meals way back before I became vegetarian in 1991, but I felt determined to bring it back, vegan style.

This recipe is something I just sort of made up. It's vegan and gluten-free but so delicious, even people who eat a Standard American Diet will enjoy it. Please feel free to customize it however you want.

Following is the recipe I created for tonight's dinner, served with vegan garlic rolls and salad.

1/2 block Extra firm white tofu, drained and squeezed
2 tablespoons kelp flakes
1 tablespoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons vegetable broth

Brown rice spaghetti-style pasta, cooked al dente
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1/4 cup vegan white wine
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons corn starch
red pepper flakes

Slice tofu into small flakes, similar in shape and size to minced clams. Sprinkle with thyme and kelp, toss. Cover with 3 tablespoons of vegetable broth and cook over low heat until broth is absorbed.

In large frying, heat olive oil. Chop garlic, saute until translucent but not browned. Add cornstarch to broth and stir. Pour wine, broth, cornstarch, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes into pan. Cook about ten minutes. Add tofu clams, simmer on low for 15 minutes. If too thick for your taste, add more broth. If too thin, thicken with more corn starch.

Once spaghetti is cooked, drain and throw in pasta bowl. Whole house will smell like clam sauce. When fish-eating family members ask what smells so good, respond "white clam sauce." When vegan family members ask if you are cooking clams, respond "no way!" Everybody's happy.

Toss sauce into pasta. Serve hot with garlic rolls and salad. Be prepared to be the most popular person in the room.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who Dat gonna bake vegan cupcakes

In honor of Dem Saints from NOLA, I concocted a sweet, New Orleans style cupcake. It debuted on Superbowl 44 Sunday to accolades from fans (three reliable cupcake testers in my kitchen.)

Here it is, my vegan Bananas Foster Cupcake:

Brown Sugar Cupcake

Makes 12

2 c. flour
3/4 c. hazelnut meal
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
1/2 cup canola oil
2 c. light brown sugar
1 c. soy milk
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. hazelnut extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In small bowl, pour cider vinegar into soy milk and set aside to curdle. In large bowl, whisk flax seeds with oil. Add brown sugar and mix well. Add curdled soy milk and extracts. Mix.

Sift together flour, hazelnut meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat dry ingredients into wet for about one minute.

Pour batter into paper lined cupcake liners and bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool completely.


1/4 cup non-hydrogenated vegan margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dark rum
1/4 cup banana liquer
2 large bananas, diced

In saucepan over low heat, melt margarine. Mix in sugar till smooth. Add diced bananas and liquors. Mix till caramelized. Using kitchen torch or lighter, hold flame over saucepan until alcohol burns off. Turn off stove.

Poke five or six holes in cupcakes using a chopstick. Pour foster topping over cupcakes, allowing the sugary syrup to seep into holes. Bananas sit on top.

If desired, add a scoop of non-dairy frozen vanilla dessert to the top. Otherwise, serve immediately and enjoy!

Photos can be found on my twitter page

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Making Everybody Happy

Raising four children of varying ages, genders, and tastes is a constant lesson in negotiating. On New Year's Day, only the youngest two children were home. I announced that my husband and I would be taking the boys to New York to see the infamous Rockefeller Center tree (that I refuse to visit in December, due to unwieldy crowds) and eat brunch. Ordinarily, any outing that ends in food is acceptable. Not this time. 10 year old son vehemently opposed the outing, claiming that he has to walk too much in the city and he hates crowds. The conversation sounded like this:
Him: I don't want to go. It's too crowded.
Me: Today won't be crowded. Everyone is still sleeping because they stayed out late last night, so it will be the perfect time to see the big tree.
Him: (more loudly) No. I am staying home.
Me: You are too young to stay home alone.
Him: (very loudly) I won't go. You can't make me. I'm not going. You know I hate the city. Why would you want me to do something that I hate?

You get the idea. It went like that for a while, with me exasperatingly attempting solutions in a more frantic and loud voice and my husband occasionally barking commands, thinking that would help.

Five minutes more of this caused me to ask young son to leave the room before we all said something we would regret. He did. 13 year old son suggested that even though he would rather go to the city, he'd stay home with his brother so that my husband and I could still see the tree. As thoughtful as that was, it would not make everyone happy. 13 year old wanted to go! I wanted everyone's needs to be met.

Of course, I could always sacrifice my desire and just offer to stay home. For many years when the children were younger, I canceled plans and left gatherings early to satisfy their needs. That was my responsibility as a parent. Now that they are all old enough to understand my point of view, we should be able to negotiate a preference that suits everyone's tastes. I was willing to try.

I went upstairs to little son's room. Knocking, I asked if he would be willing to help find a solution that would make everyone happy. He agreed to join us in the kitchen.

This conversation went like this:
Me: I want to go to the city with all of you. Is there something other than seeing the tree we can all agree on?
Him: I don't know.
Me: Would you like to see a show?
Him: No.
Me: How about ice skating?
Him: No.
Me: Tell me what are some things you might like to do.
Him: I don't know what there is.
Me: Chinatown?
Him: I'd go to Chinatown.
13 year old: I'd go to Chinatown.
Husband: I don't care. I'll go anywhere.

At last! Consensus! And thus was born our very first Annual Vegetarian Dim Sum New Year's Brunch tradition. We ate delicious food. The boys perused the gift shops stacked floor to ceiling with resin Buddhas, red pagodas, swords and slippers. Ironically, Chinatown's streets were teeming with people, which did not seem to bother little guy one bit. As a bonus, we drove uptown past Rockefeller Center and glanced at the tree from the road before heading home. Everyone was happy.

But my work was not over. Last week, the six of us, including our daughter home from college, took what could have been our last family vacation ever. Seven days of balancing the desires and needs of three teens and one younger child, who count among us two vegans, two pescetarians, one lacto-ovo vegetarian and an omnivore, two women and four men; swimmers and non; athletes and actors made my head spin. Next time, Vexed by Vacation.