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Posts Tagged ‘vegan food’

I’m sorry for my incredible inactivity these past several months. Wow. I mean, I have been M.I.A.  But I have a somewhat reasonable excuse, you guys:  in September, I got engaged!   And since we didn’t want to have a long engagement, I’ve been plugging away at planning a wedding to take place in early May. 

The title of this post makes it sound like I actually have a clue as to how to plan a vegan wedding. But guess what? I don’t. It’s been kind of a disaster.  Even in a city the size of Minneapolis, it’s been difficult.  Having my wedding here, as opposed to in my small hometown of 130 people, was partially because of my strong desire to make sure my wedding was vegan. I figured if I had it out in the sticks, the chance of a caterer knowing how to prepare vegan food would be slim to none. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was that I might run into the same problems in Minneapolis.  I cannot TELL YOU how many negative responses I got from venues/caterers about having a vegan wedding.  It was enough to drive me bonkers. It was also why it took us almost 3 months to find a venue: I was not willing to settle for non-vegan food, and was not willing to settle for sub-par vegan food.

Several caterers “kindly” suggested that “making” everyone eat vegan food was impolite or selfish of me.  Some more tactfully suggested that I serve non-vegan food “as an option at least”.  Here is one of my favorite replies from a venue/caterer:

“Very few venues are accustomed to providing vegan cuisine. We may have a request for one or two entrées but it is still rare to provide the entire guest list with vegan or vegetarian as the only option. I have worked on several and found that some of the guests were dissatisfied.  It is your day after all but when inviting a guest list as vast as 130 I would encourage you to consider your guests needs as well. For you this may be a perfectly viable option but as a planner I feel the need to point out things that concern me.”

Thanks! I didn’t ask for your bleeping opinion!  And I did not realize that my guests NEED to eat meat.  That was news to me.

And from a bakery (after I requested information about vegan cakes ONLY):

We do suggest that you order a small vegan cake tier for vegan attendees to enjoy and have a non vegan option as well.

Oh really? I didn’t ask for any suggestions!

My fiance has repeatedly reminded me that not everyone is comfortable with veganism, and even more people view it as a personal preference, not a value system.  But when it comes down to it, I don’t see why I should spend $10,000 on meat, dairy & eggs  for one day for my guests when I am morally opposed to buying it for myself or having it in my house.  It’s like asking for pork at a Muslim wedding, or expecting a full bar at the wedding of someone who’s recently entered Alcoholics Anonymous or something.

And lest anyone think I’m being “selfish”, I just have this to say:  My wedding day should be one of the happiest days of my life.  I get really sad, though, when I think about animal suffering in the world. Like, really sad. And if at our reception I looked around and saw animal flesh on everyone’s plates, knowing that I had paid for it and condoned it, it would diminish the happiness I would feel on that day.  I want our wedding day to be a peaceful, love-filled day.   I don’t want death & suffering to be a part of the equation if I can at all help it. And it turns out I can!  We found a caterer who was happy to tweak some of their recipes for us to make them vegan, AND they are also using one of my recipes for one of the entrée choices.  I do not think our guests will be disappointed.

And if they are?  Well, we didn’t invite anyone to our wedding solely to have a free dinner. We invited them because they’ve been an important part of our lives and we want them there to witness our marriage.  If all they came for was the free food, then I guess we misjudged them.

So….this was supposed to be about how to plan a vegan wedding, wasn’t it? Well, here’s my advice, in closing:

1. Expect to encounter some resistance – from your parents, grandparents, guests, caterers, bakers, etc. SOMEONE will complain to you about it or have other “suggestions”.  Try to stay calm about it. (I was awful at this step, by the way. More than once I ended up in tears or on the verge of throwing a big ol’ hissy fit.)  But TRY.

2.  Keep your focus on the reason you want a vegan wedding. If, like me, it’s because animal suffering is unbearable to you, then STAND YOUR GROUND.  My parents offered me money, but then said they’d like me to have a non-vegan option (they were nice about it, but they suggested it). I told them very nicely that I would only accept their money if they would respect that it was extremely important to me to have an all vegan wedding. I said I totally respected their right to attach conditions to their money, but that I also had to be true to myself. And if that meant having a cheaper wedding, I was okay with that. In the end, they said it was up to me how to spend it.

3.  Have a calm, rational, 10 second speech ready to go for any nay-sayers.  Most people are disarmed with a simple, “having a vegan wedding is central to my value system, and it’s really important to me. I hope you can respect that.”  Or something like that.  Most vendors aren’t going to be pushy about it after that, but you might just have to say it. Otherwise I think sometimes caterers thought that I was vegan for health reasons – in which case it (to me at least) doesn’t make as much sense that I would be hell-bent on having a vegan wedding.

4.  Know that you can provide AWESOME food for your guests that isn’t full of animal products – you may just need to search a bit harder!  But it’ll be worth it. The animals will thank you! 

5.  Lastly, your guests aren’t there for the food.  They are there to support you and your future partner.  Anyone you think might complain: off the list! 🙂

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Several years ago my now 59 year old father had a heart attack. It wasn’t a major heart attack, but it has definitely caused him problems. He’s been on medication since it happened, and has regular stress tests to see if the damage to his heart has progressed. Thankfully, up until this last time, his heart showed no additional signs of damage….but his test a few weeks ago had a different result. His cardiologist told him that another part of his heart that previously hadn’t showed any damage now was. The doctor gave him 2 choices: proceed with an angioplasty now, or take 6 months to change his lifestyle and see if his condition improved. After asking what the latter would mean, he decided to take that option.

So, what lifestyle changes did the cardiologist recommend? First, he said my dad needs to lose weight, and that he should do this in two ways: 1) by walking at least 2 miles every day, and 2) by changing his diet dramatically.

Let me explain to you exactly what I mean by “dramatically” in the case of my father:  this was a man who ate beef at least once a day, if not more, for the majority of his life.  He ate high fat, high cholesterol meats and other animal byproducts.  Butter, ice cream, cheese, steak, pork, eggs – you name it, he ate it.  He would stop at fast food restaurants and get 2-3 burgers to eat over the course of a few hours.   At this last visit, however, his doctor told him that his diet should be primarily plant-based – 80% at a minimum, but the more the better. He said no more red meat, no more high fat dairy products, etc.  This prescription would be a hard for a lot of omnivores, but for a farm-raised, country boy like my dad, it was a pretty tall order.

In the past month, however, he and my mother have been eating almost exclusively vegetarian, and have even switched from using butter (a staple for them) to using Earth Balance.  My mom asked me for healthy vegan recipes, and has been cooking completely differently than she had been.   My dad has taken to walking and is getting in some cardio almost every day. And guess what?  In about a month, he’s already lost 16 pounds, and he feels great!  And probably most amazing of all is that he says he doesn’t even really miss meat.  Usually I say that when people start eating healthy vegetarian food, they WON’T miss meat, but my dad was just such a meat lover that I didn’t know if that would be the case. I am thrilled that it is.  I’m thrilled that he’s feeling good and losing weight, I’m thrilled that both my parents are eating fewer animal products, and mostly I am thrilled that he’s making this effort for his health. I want him to be around for a long time, and unless he does this, that just won’t happen.

And maybe, just maybe, if he keeps this up and works hard, these new lifestyle  changes can even reverse the damage already done to his heart. I am hopeful that it will!

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Barnivore – This website can help you determine which beers/wines/alcohols are vegan and which aren’t.

The Recycled Retriever – Here you can find eco-friendly gear for your fur-kids.

The Discerning Brute – “food, fashion & etiquette for the ethically handsome man”; a website that shows men they can still be fashionable and vegan!

The Girlie Girl Army – “your guide to glamazon living”; a website featuring eco-friendly news, food & fashion for women.

A Scent of Scandal – Buy 100% soy wax candles.  There are a few scents for which part of proceeds even benefit Farm Sanctuary.

Sanctuary Tails – This is a blog written by some of the people who care for animals at Farm Sanctuary. They talk about animal cruelty issues, but also profile rescued animals – my favorite part.  There are some very touching stories, and it’s so nice to read about animals being well cared for when it seems like all you ever hear are horror stories.

I hope you enjoy these sites as much as I do!

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At the end of April I went to Hawaii with my boyfriend and my family. We had such an amazing time, and I have meant to post some pictures ever since!  Now it’s JUNE and here I am finally doing it.  Anyway, there are still some wild chickens in Hawaii, and I snapped a few photos of them.  The first one of the hen with her chicks is my favorite–could they BE any CUTER??:

Wild hen & her babies in Haleiwa

Wild hen & her babies in Haleiwa

A gorgeous rooster in Haleiwa

A gorgeous rooster in Haleiwa

As for food, I was glad I did my research on where to find vegan food on Oahu. If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Oh. my. gosh.  The last day we were there, we drove around Honolulu trying to find this hole in the wall deli called the Wellbento. I am SO glad we did, because this Cajun BBQ tempeh served with roasted root vegetables, rice & gravy, and vegan macaroni salad & coleslaw was seriously a major highlight of my trip. Forget all the beaches, bring on the tempeh! 🙂  It was ridiculously good, and I’ve since tried to recreate the tempeh with some success, though mine’s not nearly as good as theirs.  If you ever go to Honolulu (or if you live there), you HAVE to seek this place out!

Cajun BBQ tempeh with root vegetables from Wellbento in Honolulu

Cajun BBQ tempeh with root vegetables from Wellbento in Honolulu

Also, if you are a sushi fan, check out Banzai Sushi Bar in Haleiwa on the north shore. It had a few different veggie sushi options, which you could order without seaweed! This sushi was wrapped with soy paper. I can’t stand seaweed, so this was much better! I’m still not a huge sushi fan, but this was much better than a lot of other sushi I’ve had!  And it’s pretty to boot!

Veggie sushi from Banzai Sushi bar in Haleiwa

Veggie sushi from Banzai Sushi bar in Haleiwa

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Vegan Betty Crocker

vegan-cheesecake-16 I never used to bake. Ever.  I think there were 2 main things that kept me from baking: 1) baked goods only lead me to eating more junk food, and 2) eggs.  Eggs gross me out – always have.  Every time I would eat them in my pre-vegan days, I’d feel sick afterward.  Of course I couldn’t taste them in a cake or anything, but I didn’t really like working with them anyway.  On top of it, I never really felt a need to “prove” myself as a baker – I just didn’t care.

Well, folks, times have changed. I LOVE baking now.  I can’t stop doing it.  My friends and family are shocked and my boyfriend has started calling me Vegan Betty Crocker.  It’s gotten sort of out of control.  I’ve made 2 cheesecakes, strawberry shortcakes with vegan whipped cream, (those recipes are divine!) and a chocolate cake with vegan cream cheese frosting in the last 2 weeks.  If I keep this up, I’ll be HUGE in no time.

But, back to the reason for this post: Lemon Cheesecake from the Joy of Vegan Baking.  YUM.  You see, cheesecake used to be my favorite dessert.  There is this trendy little cafe not far from where I went to undergrad, and sometimes I’d go down there, get a piece of cheesecake and a latte (how yuppy is that??) and study for a couple hours.  As a vegan, I’ve missed cheesecake, and was doubtful that I’d ever have really good cheesecake again.  All the recipes I’ve seen online are tofu-based, and that just didn’t appeal to me.  Then I found the recipe for Lemon cheesecake in the Joy of Vegan Baking. I tried it out this week and it’s getting great reviews from my omni family! You NEED to try it (I can’t find it online, so you might have to buy her book – but it’s a great investment).

There is nothing more satisfying that getting a bunch of omnivores to declare how delicious your VEGAN baking is….and yes, that might be part of the reason I bake now.  What can I say? I’m competitive as hell!

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vegan_lasagnaI typically don’t make up recipes.   I have gotten to be a pretty good little chef, if I do say so myself, but I almost always use someone else’s recipe and follow it mighty closely too.  But do you know what I’ve been missing lately?  Lasagna.  I wanted a good old-fashioned lasagna like my mom used to make…except I didn’t want to eat all the cheese & beef she puts in hers. The only problem is that every time I tried to find a vegan lasagna recipe, it had neither a meat substitute, nor a cheese substitute.  That’s not lasagna to me, people!  So, I made something up, and I have to say it turned out even better than I expected.   I thought I’d share it, just in case anyone else out there might enjoy it!

VEGAN LASAGNA

This recipe makes an 8×8 pan of lasagna or ~ 9 servings

Ingredients
Lasagna noodles – about half a box
Half of a small yellow onion
1 small green pepper
2 Tbsp Safflower oil for sauteing
1 26 oz jar of marinara sauce (store bought, your choice)
2 Field Roast Italian flavored links
1 block of mozzarella cheese substitute, shredded (I prefer Veganrella) (NOTE:  We didn’t use the whole block for the lasagna, but rather made some garlic-cheese bread with some of it. You can use as little or as much as you want in the actual lasagna.)
2 handfuls fresh spinach leaves
4-6 large basil leaves
HALF recipe of Veganomicon’s cashew ricotta recipe (p. 206)


Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees (F).
  2. Boil your lasagna noodles.   Be sure to add a little oil so they don’t stick together when cooked.  (When fully cooked, set them aside to cool a bit.)
  3. While noodles are boiling, dice half of the onion and saute in the safflower oil.  Dice up the green pepper and add that to the onions after they have cooked for a few minutes.
  4. Get out your food processor – you’re going to need it!  Throw spinach and basil leaves into food processor and pulse a few times – no need to puree it, just chop it up a little bit and mix together. Set aside spinach & basil mixture.
  5. Cut field roast sausages into quarters & put the pieces in the food processor.  Grind that up until it looks like burger crumbles. (You could probably use Boca’s pre-made burger crumbles, but I liked the taste of the Italian flavoring in the Field Roast brand.)
  6. Add sausage crumbles to the onion & peppers, and add about 1/3 jar of the marinara to this mixture.  Saute a bit longer to heat up the field roast & marinara.
  7. Make the cashew ricotta in your food processor. This probably takes the most amount of time, but it is worth it. This adds SO much to the recipe. I just loved it. Anyway, I have to admit also that I used a little less tofu than they suggested, and it came out great.
  8. Now it’s time to layer!!  Get your first layer of pasta down in your pan.  Next, add about half of the field roast/onion/pepper/marinara mixture.  If it looks dry, add more of the marinara.  Before your next layer of noodles, put about 1/3 of the veganrella down.
  9. Add the second layer of lasagna noodles.  Next is the cashew ricotta layer (use all of it).  Add the spinach & basil mixture and some more marinara.
  10. Third layer of lasagna goes down. On top of this, add the rest of the field roast mixture, and a little more veganrella and/or marinara if you want.
  11. Last layer of noodles – top with the remaining marinara & veganrella.
  12. Cover with tinfoil & bake for about 20 minutes.
  13. Remove tinfoil & bake for another 10 minutes so that the cheese on top melts.  Let it cool for about 10 minutes or so before serving – and ENJOY!

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First of all, Happy New Year!   My apologies for being such a terrible blogger as of late. I went on vacation and then the holidays hit and I got lazy, what can I say?!  I’ve definitely had some things to blog about though, so here we go:

Over Christmas I went home to my family’s farm in North Dakota.  I usually bring some food along when I know I’ll be there for that long (5 days), but this time I didn’t bring much because I had been sick and didn’t do the greatest job of preparing for the trip.  I figured I’d be able to find something to eat, even if it wasn’t ideal.

One night in particular I decided to make some black bean tacos.  I made enough for my parents to eat as well, because I think cooking good vegan food for people is one of the best ways to show them what veganism is all about – that we still eat great food, it just doesn’t have animal products in it.  Anyway, I cooked this meal but ended up eating alone – in this case, mostly just because my parents weren’t hungry.  But over the holidays I felt sort of left out whenever we sat down to eat.  I had my own “special” food, which was nice and all, but I couldn’t participate in the food traditions I grew up with, and it sort of made me feel isolated.  Sure, I was still there celebrating with my family, but it just wasn’t the same.  It made me realize how lonely it can feel sometimes to be vegan.

Lonely or not, though, I wouldn’t change my decision.  I don’t WANT to eat our traditional foods anymore: creamed corn, smoked sheep meat, beef meatballs, buttered potatoes, etc.  They make me nostalgic on the one hand, but basically just gross me out on the other.

I don’t have any major insight on this, really, I just was thinking about how even though being vegan can feel isolating or lonely sometimes, I still know it’s the right thing for me to do.  I guess that’s why they say doing the right thing is rarely the easy thing.  Plus, on the flip side of that loneliness is the fact that I’ve met a lot of really great, fun people because of my veganism. The community I’ve built here is great and feels anything but lonely!

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