About Me

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Clarksville, Tennessee, United States
I have been an Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian for a few years and am considering making the switch to a full Vegan diet. I decided to become a vegetarian because I could no longer disassociate the meat on my plate from the loving, kind and peaceful animal it had once been. I have always been an animal lover, so I guess this was a natural progression. I am not a diet or nutrition expert by any means, I am just a woman on a mission to eat better, feel better and live better.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

This Week's Recipe - Dec 23 - 29

Sweet Potato & Kale Gratin
Photo copied from Oh My Veggies

Sweet Potato and Kale Gratin 
from Oh My Veggies (http://ohmyveggies.com/recipe-sweet-potato-kale-gratin)


1 large bunch kale (about 1 lb), tough stems removed and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
3 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (mine were between 1/8 and 1/4 inch)
1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmet
2 Tbsp salted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more to grease baking dish

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Steam kale for about 3 minutes, or until wilted, in a large steamer basket set over boiling water.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.  Squeeze out excess water.
  3. Place half of the potatoes in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.  (You don't have to do this neatly, but try to make sure each layer is even.)  Top potatoes with kale, then top kale with half of the Parmesan cheese.  Place remaining potatoes in dish and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
  4. Whisk together whipping cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and pour over potatoes.  Dot with butter.
  5. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 20-25 minutes more, or until potatoes are tender and cheese is golden brown.  Allow to sit 15 minutes before serving.

Christmas Dinner

Hello!  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Yule, and Happy Festivus!  This is why I usually say "Happy Holidays" because there are so many people of different faiths celebrating holidays this time of year and I want to respect the beliefs of each of my friends regardless of their faith.  I hope you all have been blessed enough this season to be surrounded by those you love, creating wonderful memories and enjoying great food.

I haven't posted much these past two weeks because I've been so busy preparing and shopping for today, plus my mom still has appointments for her cancer treatment and I always go with her to each one.  I apologize that it's been so long.  I'm sure the two of you that read my blog have been busy as well and probably haven't noticed.

I just wanted to quickly share a recipe with you that I tried today for the first time.  In a word, it was AMAZING.  It's so creamy, sweet and decadent, and it's simply the best way I've ever had sweet potatoes.  This is now a definite must have for many, many years to come.

The recipe I am referring to is Sweet Potato and Kale Gratin.  I got this recipe from one of my favorite vegetarian blogs I follow, Oh My Veggies.  She knows what she's doing because I love her recipes.  You simply HAVE to try this.  I am not a huge sweet potato fan, or at least, I didn't used to be, but this dish has made me a believer.  I have a love affair with kale, so that didn't surprise me so much, but pairing it with the sweet potatoes, heavy cream and nutmeg is out of this world!

I hope you all give this a try.  It doesn't have to be for a large meal, either, just be sure to make plenty because it won't last long!

Happy Holidays to each of you.  I wish you nothing but peace, love and happiness.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Compassion and Kindness

While this time of year usually brings to mind images of families getting together, decorating homes and being creative, unfortunately there is also a darker, sadder side where emotions run high, depression sets in and people do unspeakable and unthinkable acts.  Over the past several days, there have been several mass shootings reported and it truly breaks my heart.  I am sitting here watching the news reports of a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, and I can't imagine what these families are going through, or what these children had to witness and endure. 

I don't understand why it seems to be easier to carry around hate, negativity and violence in our hearts and minds than it is to show compassion, kindness and love for one another.  We are all neighbors on this planet, and we should take care of each other.  Imagine what it would be like if everyone was looking out for each other, to make sure everyone was fed, clothed, warm, loved and sheltered; if everyone would lend a hand to those less fortunate, or just offer compassion to those they encounter each day.  

I don't have much more to say today, other than please be aware of your actions and make it a point to show compassion and kindness to those around you.  You never know what hardships someone is facing in their life and how much a simple smile, a touch, a hug, etc. could mean to someone, or what a difference it could make in their life.  

I wish you all a very splendid Friday, and I hope you're blessed enough to change someone's life today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

So Much To Try, So Little Time

I follow quite a few vegetarian/vegan sites on facebook and on the web, and I just get SO many recipe ideas it becomes overwhelming.  I want to try them all, but I don't have the time!  If I were to try everything I want to, I'd never leave my kitchen.  If I could earn money doing it, I would.

I just saw a recipe for a sweet potato and kale gratin over at Oh My Veggies that I HAVE to make!  With the winter holidays fast approaching, and just coming off the Thanksgiving meal, I don't want to just repeat the same dishes.  But there are some staples that we have always had with these meals, and sweet potatoes is one of them.  We did the candied sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving, which is the family tradition, but I'm thinking this is the dish I will make for our Christmas meal this year.  You know, to change it up a little.  

Honestly, sweet potatoes have never been a favorite of mine, but that may be because I've really only had them a few different ways.  But I LOVE kale, and I love a good potato gratin, so this may be a new favorite!  I can't wait to give it a try.  I'll post and let you know how it comes out when I do.  

Do you have a vegetable that you are looking to try in new recipes?  I know it's easy for us to get stuck in "the rut" of cooking the same dishes over and over, especially when times are hectic like Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.  I do have to say, that's one of the reasons I enjoy Pinterest.  So many people pinning so many different recipes, it gives me a lot of ideas.  And as I mentioned above, the pages I follow have many delicious recipes to choose from, too.  

Sometimes, a recipe won't look like something I would particularly enjoy, but it will spark the imagination of my inner chef and give me some great ideas to try.  I have actually come up with some of my favorite recipes in this way.  I will see a technique or an ingredient that I haven't tried before and I will start to think of ways I can incorporate it into my meals.  

I know some people need a recipe to follow, but I've always been able to just look through my cupboards and throw something together.  You shouldn't be afraid of failure in the kitchen.  It's just food.  If it doesn't work out, figure out what went wrong and try it a different way next time.  In fact, I don't like to think of them as "failures", I choose to view them as "lessons".  

So here's my challenge to you:  find an ingredient or a technique that you've never tried, and give it a go.  Follow a recipe if you like, but be adventurous.  And let me know how it works out.  I'm going to be trying a new soup this week, and I'll let you know what happens, even if it's an epic fail.  Some lessons are harder learned, but they're worth it.  Happy cooking!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I'm Baa-aack!

I'm sorry it's been almost a week since my last post!  I have been busy doing some holiday shopping and getting my cards all signed and ready to send.  No excuses, just didn't have the time to work on anything worth posting about. 

However, yesterday I was shopping with my mom at TJMaxx and was absolutely amazed to find a VEGAN leather jacket there!  It was truly gorgeous!  It was soft like butter and really beautifully made.  Unfortunately, it was in the juniors section so there wasn't one in my size, but I was still shocked and thrilled to see it.  I cannot remember who made it, though.  I wanted to look them up online to see if I could order one for myself, but I can't remember for the life of me.  I may have to make another trip over there just to see who manufactured it.  

I didn't realize that vegan clothing was available in mainstream stores, did you?  Have any of you come across this as you've been shopping?  Honestly, I never even looked before, but I couldn't miss the vegan badge on the tag of this jacket.  They said it loud and proud!  I have looked up some vegan clothing and shoes online and found that they were fairly expensive.  I don't have a large clothing budget, so I have to be frugal where I can.  This jacket yesterday was only $30 at TJMaxx, but I don't know how much it usually sells for.

I do have to say that I have become so much more aware of what I buy without any effort at all.  I find myself looking at labels to see what ingredients are used beyond vegetarian and what materials are used to make an item.  Then I realize what I'm doing and there's this little moment where I'm extremely proud of myself.  Like yesterday, I was also looking at winter hats.  There was a cute bomber-style hat rimmed with fur and I checked the label to see if it was faux fur.  I was disappointed to find out it was real rabbit fur.  WHY?  I don't know why real fur is still used when faux furs looks just as luxurious as the real thing.  There's no reason not to use the fake stuff.  I think in order to buy something made with real fur, you should be required to watch the process from start to finish and see if you still want it!

Anyway, I just wanted to share my excitement with you of my find yesterday.   I hope you all are having a great weekend and I wish you all the very best!

Monday, December 3, 2012


I really need to start exer...exercis....ah, heck....I need to start working out!!  Why does exercise have to sound like exorcist?   Have you ever noticed?  I have, and I'm sure that's why I've always tried to avoid it!  

But seriously, I have been eating better and making better choices, but I really need to get my butt in gear.  I was doing really well a while back with getting up early every morning and going for an hour walk.  But then it rained for about 5 days straight, and I just didn't get back into my routine.  I know, pathetic, right?  But I am a creature of habit, and when that habit gets broken, I have a hard time getting back into it.  

I have a picture of myself in my mind, but when I look at myself in the mirror, that's not what I see.  It's discouraging.  I want those two images to be the same, and the only way that's going to happen is if I make a commitment to myself to get in better shape.  I am ready to do it, so I thought I would post about it here so that you can help hold me accountable.  I hope you all will offer your support and encouragement.  I need all the help I can get.

I want the rest of my life to be better than my past.  I want to shed this heavy coat of self degradation and self-doubt.  I want to truly feel good about myself for the first time in my life, both on the inside and the outside.  That's what this whole transformation is about, really.  It started smaller than that but has grown to be so much more.  

So I am making a vow here and now to exercise at least 30 minutes every day.  No matter what.  Let the transformation begin!

Chilly Chili Weather

I had a nice, relaxing weekend, and I hope all of you did, too.  The weather here in NYC has changed again and it's going to be in the 60's today and tomorrow, and while I'm not complaining, I like the chilly weather for cooking up the warm, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kinds of soups, stews and chili.  I don't consider temps in the 60's to be "chili" weather, but I'm making chili for dinner tonight either way.  I just love it when it's cold outside and I'm all warm and toasty inside, curling up with a hot, steaming bowl of deliciousness.  There's just something about it that makes it just a little more comforting, don't you think?

So chili tonight it is.  I can't wait!  I've been wanting to make this for several days, but the meal planning and timing just hadn't worked out until now.  I've got my ingredients ready to go, and am anticipating the arrival of about 4:30 this afternoon so I can begin to cook!  You may think I'm crazy, but I really do enjoy cooking that much!  I think I should have been a chef.  I've always wanted to own a small, cozy restaurant that serves really, really good food.  Maybe someday....I can dream, can't I?  

I am using an ingredient that I haven't used before.  Or should I say a brand I haven't used before.  I've used the veggie crumbles by Morningstar Farms, but I'm using the ones by Lightlife in my chili tonight.  It's not that I wasn't happy with the Morningstar Farms, I just want to try out all the different brands to see which ones I like the most.  I use other products by Lightlife and love them, such as their Smart Dogs and Smart Sausages, Smart Deli slices, Smart Bacon and Gimme Lean Sausage, so I am sure I will be happy with these as well.  

I don't usually make my vegetarian chili with the veggie crumbles because I'm completely happy with just the vegetables, but I am feeding this to my parents as well, so I want to give it the meaty texture they're used to.  I am determined to convert them to a no meat diet one of these days.  They absolutely LOVED the No Beef Stroganoff I made last week!  I thought my dad was going to lick the plate, he was loving it so much.  So if I can continue to make meatless meals for them like that, ones that they actually WANT me to make again, I think I would have a much better chance of convincing them to just skip the meat.  Baby steps.

I know the weather is turning colder (in most places in the US, anyway) and I'd love to hear about the yummy winter comfort foods you all are cooking and creating!  I hope you all have a wonderful beginning to your week, and enjoy the cooler days.   

Friday, November 30, 2012

Oh Boy!

So, I visited a few websites today looking for ingredients that contain animal by-products, and let me tell you - there are a LOT of them.  Some of them I was aware of, but there are many that I was not.  Such as Casein.  This is the description from the PETA website:  

Casein.  Caseinate.  Sodium Caseinate.
Milk protein.  In "nondairy" creamers, soy cheese, many cosmetics, hair preparations, beauty masks.  Alternatives:  soy protein, soy milk, and other vegetable milks.

SOY cheese?  I didn't even think to check the ingredients in soy cheese to see if they contained an animal by-product!  I mean, after all, if you're going to make something nondairy, why would you still put a milk protein it?!?

Needless to say, I have a LOT of research to do.  I am aware of certain things Vegans do not eat or use, such as honey and bees wax, silk and cashmere, but there are a whole lot of them that I wasn't.  This may be a little harder than I anticipated to learn and incorporate one thing into my new lifestyle each week, but I am committed.  I will continue to read up on it, do some research, and share what I find with you.

We can do this.  Especially if we're doing it together.  It may take some time but like I've said before, this isn't a contest so we can take our time.  Which is good, because there is a LOT to learn.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

This Week's Recipe - Dec 2 - 8

“No Beef” Stroganoff

Serves 4 – 6

1 bag Gardein Beefless Tips
1/2 bag or 8 oz. egg noodles, cooked to package directions
1 can Campbell’s mushroom gravy
½ envelope onion soup mix
1 pkg cremini mushrooms, sliced
½ small yellow onion, diced
½ cube vegetarian “beef” flavored bouillon
¼ cup dry red wine (merlot works well)
¼ cup vegetable broth (or more depending on desired sauce consistency)
2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. 

2.  Add onion and beefless tips; sauté until tips are thawed and beginning to brown, and onions are tender.

3.  Add wine to deglaze the pan. 

4.  Add mushroom gravy, onion soup mix, broth and bouillon.  Stir to combine. 

5.  Add mushrooms, salt and pepper.  Cook until sauce thickens to desired consistency. 

6.  Add egg noodles and stir to coat.

7.  Serve immediately.  (Depending on portion size and what sides you serve this with, it will give you between 4 and 6 servings.)


Oh, I am just so happy with myself right now!  I had bought a can of mushroom gravy for Thanksgiving because I couldn't find my favorite vegetarian "turk'y" gravy.  But when it arrived, the picture on the outside of the can suggested that this was a really dark colored gravy, and that was not what I wanted for my Thanksgiving turk'y roast.  So I put it away in my cabinet and made my own mushroom gravy, which turned out fine.

So I was trying to decide how I was going to use this dark mushroom gravy, and I decided to make a "no-beef" stroganoff.  I thought about what ingredients I wanted to use, gathered them all together and I made it for dinner tonight.  It was a HUGE success!  My parents and I ate it together, and they absolutely loved it.  It had such a great, rich "beefy" flavor and was truly delicious.  I would even go so far as to say that you might just be able to sneak this one onto the plate of a carnivore and they wouldn't even know it didn't contain any meat.  

I took some pictures and am working on writing up the recipe.  I will be posting it here as this coming week's recipe tomorrow.  I hope you will give it a try.  It is really simple and quick to make, and could easily be made for a mid-week meal without a lot of work.  But it's special enough that it could also be served for an intimate weekend dinner with a few friends.

So I am off to write the recipe for you.  I hope you all have had a terrific week, and enjoy your Friday tomorrow!  Bring on the weekend!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where I'm Aware

I find that the further I travel along the road to becoming fully vegan, the easier and easier it gets.  I become more aware of everything I use, and what ingredients they contain.  I have been noticing a lot of ingredients listed with vague titles such as "caramel color" and "natural and/or artificial flavoring".  What ARE those?  Because caramel color could certainly contain meat products, and so could flavoring.  I realize that I have a LOT of research and education ahead of me.  

I am trying to think of a way to tackle learning and memorizing all the "tools" I will need moving forward, and what will be the best way to do this.  One approach I was considering is making a project out of it.  I will research and learn one new tidbit of knowledge each week about the vegan lifestyle and diet, and share them here with you.  Then I will spend that week making sure I follow and adapt it into my daily routine.  I will post about my successes and failures, and what I find to be the easiest way to incorporate it into real life.  Hopefully we'll be able to increase our awareness together, and assist each other in ways we can be more successful in our choices.  

Have any of you done a lot of research?  Have you been a vegan for a while now?  Do you have any helpful hints you'd like to share with us?  We're all in this together.  If we're already eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, or just considering it, we're all on the same path.  We're just at different points along the road.  It's not a contest, there is no prize for making progress faster than anyone else.  There is no "finish line" to cross.  This is a lifestyle change, which means it is something you have to commit to each and every day of your life.  So if you're making progress slower than someone else you know, don't become discouraged.  It's not about being perfect, it's about being aware and making choices.  If you stumble one day, don't beat yourself up.  Just get back up, dust yourself off, and begin again.  If you truly want to make the change, you'll succeed.  But you'll do it in your own time, at your own pace.

When I first decided to become a vegetarian, I would really beat myself up when I made a mistake and had something that contained some sort of meat product.  Even if it was completely unintentional.  Then I realized that there is no scoring system, I'm not being graded here.  I'm just making decisions and choices for myself and my life.  I actually had a moment of weakness a while back and thought I would eat some buffalo chicken wings, because I used to eat them all the time.  I just had this overwhelming urge to eat a few of them, so I did.  And you know what happened?  My body did NOT like it.  I didn't feel good for a day and half after eating them.  But you know what DIDN'T happen?  The vegetarian police didn't show up at my door to take away my veg badge either!  The world didn't stop spinning or come to an end.  It was just a stumble, that's all.  So I moved on.  

I hope you're becoming more aware of the choices you make each day regarding your body and your diet, and I hope that you'll be successful in making the necessary changes so that you'll be happy and at peace with yourself.  Have a great Wednesday everyone!

P.S.  I know I'm late posting this week's recipe, but with all the Thanksgiving leftovers and a couple days of eating lighter meals to recover from the "feast of days", I haven't really cooked anything worth posting, but I will be this week.  I may just post a new recipe on Sunday, and begin weekly again from there.  Hope you don't mind. ;) 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Noodles and Cabbage and Chili, Oh My!

Now that we are past the Thanksgiving holiday, I've been thinking of new and delicious recipes to try.  One of which was a crispy cabbage salad, with green and purple cabbage, onions, and carrots.  Now you may be thinking "cole slaw", but this is not made with a creamy dressing, this is tossed in an olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper dressing.  It keeps it very light and crispy, and it's really very delicious.  

You can adjust the amount of oil, vinegar and seasonings to your own taste, or add any additional that you like.  I made mine with 1/3 cup olive oil; 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar; 1 garlic clove, minced; salt and pepper, to taste; 1 carrot, shredded; 1/2 onion, sliced thin; and 1/2 small head of each cabbage, sliced thin.  I whisked the dressing together, then tossed the vegetables in the bowl, covered and refrigerated for about an hour.  Pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.  

And since the weather is turning colder now, I've really been wanting to make a nice big pot of vegan chili.  I'm also going to make a vegan 'no-beef' stroganoff, and some cheddar broccoli quinoa.  I'm going to make large amounts of both so that we can eat the left-overs during the week, too.  It's always nice when you can take a couple nights off during the week and not have to cook a meal.  

I do have to say, I'm really having fun seeing how many of my tried and true vegetarian recipes I can now adjust to vegan.   It's not as hard as I thought.  As I learn how to swap things out, which vegan items I need to use, and what brands I prefer, it becomes easier and easier to make the adjustments.  

I love to cook, and I love to experiment with new ingredients in the kitchen.  I will, however, try to keep my recipes very easy so that anyone can make them without difficulty.  If there is ever something that requires a little more detail, I will do my best to break it down for you.  And of course, you can always comment with any questions you may have.

Now, I'm going to go have some delicious cabbage salad and an open-faced tomato and vegan cheese sandwich.  I hope you have a great Monday and a relaxing beginning to your week!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Leftovers Anyone?

I don't know how you all are feeling today but I'm feeling just a bit overstuffed.  I have been enjoying the leftovers of yesterday's feast all day today, and now I'm feeling quite lazy.  It was a delicious meal, and we still have some left,  believe it or not.  It's hard to cook a small meal for the "feast of the year".  We did the best we could.  And on the plus side, having so much left over just means we don't have to cook for the next few days.  I believe I did enough cooking yesterday to account for it anyway.

I remember my first Thanksgiving last year and how I thought it was going to be so hard for me, but it wasn't.  And it was even easier this year.  I was quite pleased with the Quorn Turk'y Roast as it gave me just enough of the "meatiness" to go along with my stuffing and potatoes.  Plus, it made awesome turk'y sandwiches the next day, which was always my favorite part of Thanksgiving.  The mushroom and leek stuffing was amazing, and the chopped walnuts gave it just enough crunch.  One of the best Thanksgiving meals I've had in a long time.  

I hope you all enjoyed your day and your meal as much as I did mine.  Now....on to putting together the recipe for the coming week.  I hope you have a great evening!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

Today, as we give thanks for the many blessings in our lives, let's not forget to include ourselves and our health.  If you're anything like me, you spend most of your life making sure everyone else is happy and healthy, and put yourself on the back burner.  I have a hard time setting aside time for myself and giving my mind and body the attention they deserve.  I am committed to making positive changes regarding both my physical and mental health by making better food choices (especially when I'm in a hurry), pushing myself to exercise like I should, and using meditation to clear my mind and release stress every day.  I hope you will join me in this commitment, through whatever personal changes you need to make in order to achieve a more balanced, healthy life.

I am also so very thankful for my parents, for their infinite love and continued support; for my friends, both near and far, who are always there with an ear, a hand or a shoulder, whichever is needed; for my pets who provide unconditional love and endless entertainment; for a warm and safe home; for the wisdom that comes with age (despite the gray hair and wrinkles); for the continuing lesson on how to love and appreciate myself; for the freedoms provided by this great nation; for the many men and women who make huge sacrifices to provide those freedoms; and most of all, for all the love that surrounds me each and every day of my life.  

I wish you all a very happy, very healthy, very filling and fulfilling Thanksgiving day.  I hope you are able to spend it surrounded by those you love and hold most dear.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No Turkey Gravy

Well, we're two days away from Thanksgiving and I haven't been able to find the vegan turk'y gravy for my Thanksgiving meal.  I'm a little bummed because when I tried it in advance about a month ago, it was delicious!  And I've been planning on having it all this time and I can't just can't find it.  I guess I'll just go with a mushroom gravy, which will be good, but it won't be the same.  

I'm getting really excited for Thursday, to cook and enjoy all these delicious dishes.  Why do we only cook them for the holidays?  I love green bean casserole and stuffing, but honestly, I only have them at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I just don't know why it never crosses my mind during the rest of the year to make them.  Maybe because I only associate them with the rest of the meal, and that's not something we usually have during the year.  Of course, now that I'm vegetarian, I can make these sides anytime I want without worrying about roasting a turkey or chicken, or baking a ham.  

We're having a very small Thanksgiving meal this year which I feel is more difficult than when you're cooking for the whole family.  There are only three of us in town and I'm the only vegetarian, so we're cooking additional dishes just for me.  It keeps it interesting, that's for sure.

Are you excited about the holiday, or dreading it?  Are you spending the day with family and friends, or are you enjoying a small, quiet get together at home?  Do you have everything you need?  Leave me a comment below and let me know. 

I hope you have a splendid day tomorrow and wish you all the best as you begin to prepare for Thursday.  And for all of you who will be traveling to spend the day with your loved ones, be careful and courteous out there, and I wish you very safe travels!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

This Week's Recipe - Nov 18 - 24

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Lasagna
Serves 6


2 cans quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
2 cups frozen chopped spinach
1 can vegan cream of mushroom soup
1 pkg cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
¼ cup plain soy creamer
½ pkg lasagna noodles, cooked
2 cups vegan ricotta cheese (recipe below)
2 cups vegan shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp vegan butter
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste


1.  Preheat oven to 350°.

2   In sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. 

3.  Sauté leeks until slightly tender, about 2 minutes.  Add artichokes and mushrooms.  Sauté  about 5 minutes.  

4.  Add cream of mushroom soup, soy creamer, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. 

5.  Add spinach, and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

6.  In small to medium casserole dish, layer lasagna as follows:  place a little bit of filling into bottom to keep noodles from sticking.  Lay lasagna noodles to cover bottom.  Spoon artichoke filling onto noodles and spread to cover.  Spread half of ricotta cheese mixture over filling.  Repeat layers, reserving just enough filling to cover top layer of noodles. 

7.  Top with mozzarella cheese.

8.  Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly golden in color.  Let stand for 5 – 10 minutes.

9.  Serve with salad and bread.

Vegan Ricotta Cheese
Yields 2 cups


14 oz firm tofu
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp salt
Dash of black pepper


1.  Slice tofu into 7 or 8 pieces, press between towels to remove water.  

2.  Crumble into bowl until it is the texture of ricotta cheese.  

3.  Add remaining ingredients and stir.


A few days ago I posted about wanting to make a vegan spinach and artichoke lasagna.  Well, tonight I made it and it was a success!  I take a bit of personal pride in it because my mom had some and actually loved it.  She ate all of it, and that's really saying something.  I wouldn't say that she is anti-vegan, but she does think that some of the food I eat is a little weird, like tofu.  And what was really surprising is that I made my own ricotta cheese out of tofu, she was completely aware of it and she still ate it.  So this lasagna was a success in more ways than one.  

I apologize for the late post today.  I went shopping with my mother this morning, shopped for my vegan ingredients for dinner this afternoon and then made the meal.  It will be this week's recipe so I'll be posting it along with pictures a little later after I have it typed up.  

This recipe can easily be made vegetarian as well, but it really did turn out great with the vegan cheeses.  You might want to give it a try.  But either way, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.  If you're a spinach and artichoke lover like me, you'll LOVE it. 

I'm going to get to work on putting the recipe together for you, so I'm cutting this post short tonight.  I hope you had a fantastic weekend, and are enjoying a pleasant Sunday evening!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Best Intentions and Worst Conclusions

I really want to get in shape, eat healthy and just live a better life than I have for the past 40 years.  I think I've been making good strides toward this goal, but when there are so many junk foods that are vegetarian, I have a really hard time saying "no".  I've never had very much self control when it comes to turning down what I know I shouldn't have.  It's something I'm working on, but progress is slow.

I learned to comfort myself with food growing up.  Had a bad day?  Eat something indulgent, it'll make you feel better.  Broke up with your boyfriend?  Have something sweet, it'll make you feel better.  Bored with nothing to do?  Snack on some chips, it'll make you feel better.  

Of course, none of this actually works, but I can't seem to convince my inner voice of this. We'll refer to her as Jezebel. She's still convinced all things can be cured, corrected or celebrated with good food.  So essentially, I'll eat for just about any reason under the sun.  That would explain why I've had issues with my weight on and off throughout my life.  And even though I've been a vegetarian for nearly two years now, I still have quite a bit of weight to lose.  

Oh, I'll do well for a while, tracking what I eat, the calories I take in, the exercise I do (or don't do), but then there she is again, Jezebel whispering in my ear, telling me I should reward myself with a big fat slice of cake.  And of course, to get that one slice I have to bake the entire cake.  And I can make a cake that's vegetarian easy enough, and now I can make them that are vegan, too.  Yay me!  (Should I celebrate that with some vegan ice cream?)  No.  No, stay focused.  

I have the best intentions when I do my grocery shopping, too.  I buy all these beautiful, delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, make sure I have enough grains on hand, and all the soy milk and vegan butter I'll need, but I don't live alone.  And I'm not the only person with self-control issues...or a debit card.  So chocolate, candy and chips still make their way into my house and there go all my good intentions, all wrapped up in what's left of a Snicker's candy bar wrapper.  

I was talking on the phone with a friend of mine the other day about the weight he's lost and mentioned how I really need to lose some, too.  He said, "but your vegetarian - don't you automatically lose a lot of weight?"  Oh how I wish that were true.  I guess if you're a dedicated, health-obsessed vegetarian with loads of self-control it would be.  But I'm a vegetarian because I love animals.  Yes, I want to be healthy and yes, I want to lose weight, but those weren't my driving motivation for becoming a vegetarian.  

I really work at it every day to keep myself in check and to say "no" to all the sugar and fat in my kitchen calling my name.  It truly is a daily battle for me.  But I remain hopeful that I'll succeed, that I'll finally flip that switch inside me that will silence Jezebel for good, and I'll lose the weight and improve my health.  I continue to believe that I'll live my best life, and I am always....a wishful vegan.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Brussels Sprouts: Love 'em or Leave 'em?

I've hated Brussels sprouts my entire life.  Until a few years ago, that is.  I was at a restaurant with a salad bar and they had a soup which had them as one of the ingredients.  I thought, "What the heck?  I'll give them a try.  If I don't like them, I don't have to eat them".  Well, I DID like them.  In fact, I LOVED them!  

Why had I hated them?  There must have been a reason, right?  Some horrible childhood memory of being force-fed some overcooked, smelly, cabbage-like green veggie that left me scarred for life, right?  Right?  

Honestly, I can't even tell you why I had thought I always hated them.  I do not have one single memory of every eating them as a child.  I know my mom never cooked them, because she grew up hating them, too.  So where did my mind determine that I didn't like them? 

I think it's likely that since just about everyone I ever heard talk about them claimed to hate them, spoke of how horrible they were, and that no one in my family ever served them in their own homes, I might have developed the "idea" that I hated them.  After all, if everyone hates them, they MUST be bad.  

Well I'm here to tell you if you haven't tried them, or if you've avoided them since you WERE force-fed some overcooked, smelly version of them as a child, you should really give them a second look.  I have fallen in love with them, and am always trying to find new ways to prepare them.  After all, it's not like my recipe box is full of dishes made with Brussels sprouts that are old family favorites, passed down from generation to generation.  I'm starting from scratch here.  

My favorite way to eat them right now is roasted.  I cut them in half, drizzle them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, spread them on a cookie sheet and bake them at 425 for about 30 minutes or until they're getting nice and brown around the edges.  Stir them half-way through baking so that they cook evenly on both sides.  You can also mix them with other vegetables you like to roast, such as potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, etc.  Either way, roasted Brussels sprouts make a delicious side-dish.  

What got me thinking of Brussels sprouts today was watching Rachael Ray this morning.  She had a recipe for a Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad which I just HAVE to try!  The idea of separating all the leaves and using them in a salad, or mixing them with other lettuces and greens, is genius.  I'm sure it's going to become one of my favorite uses for these healthy little veggies.  

And they ARE very healthy.  Here are some facts from the Fruits and Veggies More Matters website:  

How to Select
Choose firm, compact, bright green Brussels sprouts heads.
Buy on stalk when possible.

How to Store
Refrigerate brussels sprouts in plastic bag up to 1 week.

Nutrition Benefits
Low fat; saturated fat free; very low sodium; cholesterol free; low calorie; good source of dietary  fiber; high in vitamin C; good source of folate.

At about 10 calories per sprout, you can load up your plate with them and not worry about it.  That is, as long as you're preparing them in a recipe that isn't loaded with other fat- or calorie-laden foods.  Keep it simple and keep it wholesome. 

If you'd like to read more about them at the World's Healthiest Foods website, please click here.  They provide a lot of helpful and interesting information.

So now that I'm thinking about all things Brussels sprouts, I'm going to be searching the internet for new delicious ways to eat them!  

I hope you all enjoy your day and have a very happy Friday!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ready or Not?

Whether we're ready to kick off the holiday season or not, it's upon us.  Thanksgiving is one week, or 168 hours, away - however you want to look at it.  I spent a good portion of the day yesterday thinking about the dishes I want to make, what ingredients I will need, and where I need to go to get them.  So I made my lists and checked them twice (it was actually more like 5 or 6 times) and I think I'm ready to get my shopping done this week.  

My Thanksgiving menu consists of a Quorn Turk'y Roast (vegetarian), Better Than Gravy Turkey Gravy (vegan), green chile gravy (vegan), mashed potatoes (vegetarian), mushroom walnut stuffing (vegan), green chile stuffing (vegan), green bean casserole (vegetarian), candied sweet potatoes (vegan), dinner rolls (vegetarian), and for dessert, some yummy pumpkin pie (vegetarian), apple pie (vegetarian) and homemade whipped cream (vegetarian).  

Pretty traditional, but that's what I love about it.  These are the same dishes my family has been enjoying for Thanksgiving my entire life.  It brings back all the warm, sweet memories of past holidays with my family, hanging out in the kitchen with my mom helping prepare the food, and watching football with the family all afternoon.  And of course, the left-over turkey sandwiches the next day!  Oh how I have missed the turkey sandwiches since becoming a vegetarian.  I haven't tried the vegetarian Turk'y Roast before (or any other brand) because for the past two holidays, I waited too long to get it, and the stores around me were sold out.  But this year I planned ahead and I bought mine this week, and it's now sitting in my freezer.  I can't wait!  Especially for the turk'y sandwich!  YUM!  That has always been my favorite part of Thanksgiving.  Call me crazy, but even with all the beautiful, delicious dishes made that day, I always anticipated the turkey sandwich the next day.  

Now, you might be asking about the green chile stuffing and green chile gravy.  Well, I grew up in New Mexico, and we put chile in literally EVERYTHING.  It's delicious!  If you want to give it a try, but don't want to make the entire dish in case you don't like it, make a little extra stuffing, mix in some roasted, chopped green chile, and bake it as usual in a small baking dish.  You can choose how spicy you want it by which chile you use.  You can do the same for your gravy, just take a portion of the gravy you've already made, put it in your blender or food processor and puree it with some chopped green chile (or a little red chile sauce).  Then return it to the stove to simmer for about 5 or 10 minutes to develop the flavors.  

Whether you want to keep your holiday meal strictly traditional, or if you want to get creative by trying some new dishes or just re-inventing some old ones, be sure to start your shopping early.  This way, you'll have all week to make those short trips to the stores to pick up those items you forgot and you won't be rushed and stressed out at the last minute.  

I think I'll go check my lists again, just to be sure I have everything.  I hope you all have a terrific Thursday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Spinach and Artichokes? Yes, please!

Are there any two ingredients that go together any better than spinach and artichokes?  Chocolate and peanut butter?  Maybe.  Tomatoes and basil?  Possibly.  Tequila and margarita mix?  Oh yeah!  But I digress.  If there are other perfect matches, there can't be many of them.  It's a match made in heaven, and has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember.  

There is a pizza place near me here in NY that makes a spinach and artichoke pizza.  Need I say that it's absolutely delicious?!?  It's made on a thin crust with a creamy spinach and artichoke sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese.  Yum-my!  But, it uses real cheese and cream and I want to find a way to make this, or a variation of this, in vegan form.  One idea I had was to make a lasagna out of it.  I want to keep the sauce nice and creamy, but add in some hearty ingredients, too.  Maybe add in some cremini mushrooms, onions and garlic.  It's going to be my mission today to put together the ingredients I want to use and an idea of how I want to make it.  Once I test it out on my family, I'll let you all know how it turns out.

I have also become a bit obsessed with leeks and parsnips lately.  I've been putting them in a lot of the soups I've been making, and the leeks I've been using in just about everything I can come up with.  Come to think of it, maybe the leeks would be delicious in my spinach and artichoke lasagna!  Whoa, I'm getting ahead of myself here.  One thing at a time.

All of this got me thinking....what are your "can't live without" fruits or vegetables?  What ingredient do you sneak into any recipe you can?  And what ingredients do you consider to be the perfect match?

Well, since this is my second post of the day, I'll keep it short and sweet.  I'm off to brainstorm my lasagna recipe.  I hope you all enjoy this beautiful Wednesday!

Vegucating Family

Yesterday afternoon I was finally able to get my mom to watch the documentary "Vegucated", which in my opinion everyone should see.  She kept putting it off because she didn't want to see the parts that show how farm animals are treated.  I understand that it's hard to watch, I have to look away myself, but it's important to know what is happening because if we all turn a blind eye to these practices, nothing will ever change.  

Did you know that animal cruelty laws do not apply to farm animals?  That as long as a practice is considered "common" it's acceptable, regardless of how cruel or painful it is to the animal?  We need to make changes and that won't occur if we all pretend it's not happening.  I know people are going to continue to eat meat, and I'm not suggesting that we try to convert everyone to vegetarianism, I merely want to make sure that these animals are treated with the respect and care they deserve.  There is no reason their lives have to be lived out in horrible conditions and full of fear, anguish and pain. 

This is why I am really trying to become fully vegan.  I can't continue to eat any animal products because to do so, to hand my money over to those companies torturing these animals, is to say that what they do is acceptable. And it is NOT ACCEPTABLE.  As Paul McCartney once said, "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian".

My father won't watch the documentary because he says he doesn't want to change the way he eats.  I don't know if this means that he thinks I'm trying to "convert" him (which I'm clearly not, because I haven't done so for the past year and a half) or if he is saying that if he sees what is happening that his conscience would force him to make changes, and he's not ready for that.  Either way, I've tried to explain that whether people are going to eat meat or not, they should KNOW where their food is coming from and how it is treated/handled before it reaches their kitchens.

I hope all of you will watch "Vegucated".  It truly is an eye-opening documentary, and very educational.  And please don't think that the entire thing is about the animals.  That is only a portion of what is covered.  There is some very useful information regarding the health and environmental benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet.  It's a very well done film, and it deserves to be seen.  You can get more information here:  http://www.getvegucated.com/.

So that's my soapbox rant for the day.  Next up - FOOD related post!  Yay!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stew On This

With the weather getting colder and the skies turning grey, I immediately start thinking about stew, soup and chili.  I love how versatile they are, and they're perfect for sharing with friends and family who aren't vegetarian or vegan. For some reason, people seem to be a little more accepting of a meatless soup.  Okay, maybe not so much a meatless chili, but if you don't tell them, they'll never know the difference.  Unless they know you're a veg, and then of course you can always just hold them down and force feed them.  What's that?  Oh, you're probably right.  That wouldn't go over too well.  Okay, maybe you could just coax them into trying it.  They'll probably love it in spite of themselves.  

I'll be posting a recipe each week, and I just want to give you a heads up that you'll be seeing a lot of different soups and stews.  They're easy to experiment with, and you can always change out the ingredients and spices to make each one your own.  Sometimes I end up making a HUGE pot of soup because I go overboard with all the vegetables, beans and/or pasta I want to put in there.  I literally have to restrain myself.  

I was just telling my mother yesterday how I have really noticed a transformation in my thinking over the past year and a half.  When I first became a vegetarian, my first thought when making a meal was, "what am I going to use in place of the meat?".  Since we are now a society that plans our meals around the meat portion of the meal, I am sure this is normal.  But now it doesn't even cross my mind.  That's not to say that I don't eat the occasional meat replacements, like a Quorn Naked Chik'n Cutlet with a side of steamed peas and a baked potato, but it's no longer my central focus when I'm putting a meal together.  I immediately start thinking about all the yummy vegetables I want to have and the many different ways I can have them!  I wish I could somehow get everyone to think this way, even if they do eat meat.  

I literally can't believe how closed off I was to vegetables before.  Okay, maybe "closed off" isn't exactly the right way to describe it, but I was so used to having certain vegetables cooked certain ways, and since they were always playing second fiddle to the main attraction - MEAT - I just didn't get very creative with them.  I didn't go to the farmers market excited to see what new and amazing fruits and vegetables I could try this week.  I didn't come home and jump online looking for recipes in which to try them.  Now I am absolutely obsessed with them.  Unfortunately for my waistline, there are so many delicious recipes that include things like pumpkin and figs, apples and pears, that aren't really on the "healthy" side (darn you pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing!).  I really must learn to have more self restraint.  

So now I am off to see what I have in my pantry and refrigerator to combine for a delicious soup tonight!  Wishing you all a very pleasant Tuesday!

Monday, November 12, 2012

This Week's Recipe - Nov 11 - 17

Green Chile Corn Chowder

by Cari Ann

This chowder if very quick and simple to make.  Most of your time will be spent on prepping the vegetables.  It is important to dice the vegetables to be about the same size as the corn kernels so that they cook evenly.  The potatoes can be slightly larger, but I wouldn't suggest making them any bigger than about 1/2 inch square because you don't want them to take over and keep the corn from being the star of this chowder.


4 ears of corn, cut off the cob and cobs reserved (can use frozen corn on the cob, thawed)
4 small or 2 med russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
3 or 4 green chiles*, roasted, peeled and diced (or 3-4 small cans diced green chile)
1 box vegetable broth
1/2 cup plain soy milk
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut corn from cobs and set cobs aside.  Dice the potatoes, celery, onion, carrot, bell pepper and green chiles.
  2. Heat olive oil in large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add celery, onion and carrot.  Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add corn, potatoes, bell pepper and green chile. Sauté for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to combine. Continue to sauté for about another 2 minutes, stirring frequently to keep flour from burning.
  3. Add vegetable broth, garlic powder, paprika, nutmeg, cilantro, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Add corn cobs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Take about 1 - 1 1/2 cups of the soup, including vegetables (not cobs), and put into blender or food processor. Add milk and puree until smooth. Pour back into soup. Continue to simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes.
  5. Remove cobs and serve.
*Green chiles may be omitted if you prefer.