Sunday, July 24, 2016

2nd Annual CompassionFest

I was thrilled to return to the 2nd annual CompassionFest in Hamden, CT yesterday which was bigger and better than ever with over 75 vendors, fabulous speakers including Our Hen House's Jasmin Singer, delicious vegan food, and a slew of workshops for anyone interested in living a more compassionate life. Thank you to the organizers for all of their hard work in making this labor of love a success and for everyone who attended.  Together we are creating a compassionate world.

I spoke about the obstacles many of us face as vegans living in a nonvegan world which received a strong response. Many people could relate to feeling isolated and alienated, but everyone left with a sense of connection and support from the CompassionFest community.  If you missed my presentation "How to Cook Vegan for Nonvegan Family and Friends," you can view it here:


Here are a few highlights from the day's activities.

The Toivo team

G-Monkey vegan food truck

The CompassionFest greeters

vegan-friendly body art

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE)

Vegan CT

Ed Cleveland's soundscape

Jasmine Singer

The Bunnoli

setting up for the livestream of my presentation on Vegan Publishers

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Vegetarian Summerfest Recap

It was an exciting week in Johnston, PA reuniting with vegan friends from across the country, meeting Facebook friends in person, and making new friends everywhere I went.  This truly feels like a family reunion of like-minded people, and it's always inspiring to know we are all connected.

Dr. Ted Barnett speaking about food politics and the medical industry

The speakers were fabulous, and as always I left with a million ideas I can't wait to implement right here at home.  Some of the highlights included many moving presentations, including those by Brenda Davis, RD, who shared her vegan story that almost ended her career but instead opened up a whole new world

The inspiring Brenda Davis 
"I am a vegan dietician because I want to help people succeed brilliantly in being vegan. I have an abiding commitment to human decency and social justice... Indifference is NOT an option." 

Victoria Moran, who gave a Broadway-worthy performance about becoming a "Main Street Vegan," Harold Brown leaving the audience choked up from his personal experience being raised on a cattle farm, and Dr. Ron Weiss who sold his medical practice to buy an organic farm and prescribe fruits and veggies to his patients, and Dr. Richard Oppenlander who gets more urgent each year describing how to be "Climate Smart" and reverse the catastrophic path humans are on.

James Laveck, co-founder of Tribe of Heart, introduced the concept of transformational nonviolence, which sees the connection among various social justice movements throughout history.  He referred to moving stories of Frederick Douglass and other former slaves who overcame their circumstances through determination and perseverance. 

 James Laveck, introducing the concept of transformational nonviolence  

This year's inductee into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame was Miyoko Schinner.  Recipients are chosen for their dedication to the vegan movement, advancement of veganism in society, and their animal activism.  We learned about Miyoko's humble beginnings as a pastry chef delivering cakes by bicycle in Tokyo to opening her own vegan restaurant in San Francisco, later selling it, and opening her fabulous vegan cheese company.

I was pleased to not only have my proposal for a presentation accepted, but also to be invited to give a cooking demonstration this year. My presentation "Cooking Vegan for Nonvegan Family and Friends" was well-received and followed with a lively discussion of personal examples of successes and tips for making familiar foods fabulous.

I had a ton of fun working with the kitchen crew at Summerfest to prep for my "Vegan Picnic" cooking demo.  The class flew by and everyone raved about the food.  In fact, I was pleasantly surprised when people stopped me throughout the week to tell me how much they enjoyed the class and the recipes.

Throughout the week we gorged ourselves on three vegan meals a day prepared by Chef Mark Reinfeld and crew, along with afternoon and evening snacks including samples of Miyoko's cheese, and lots of fresh watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon.

If you've never been to Summerfest, I highly recommend attending next year.  I've previously gone for just the weekend, but after attending the full week this year, I think I'm going to have to make that a habit.  I hope to see you there!

early morning birdwatching

Sunday, May 8, 2016

New Hampshire VegFest

It's vegfest season and I was happy to return to New Hampshire this weekend for my third time as a presenter at NH VegFest.  Attendance was regular and steady throughout the day, and I had a fabulous audience for debuting my new talk "Cooking Vegan for Nonvegan Family and Friends."  This is a topic that resonates with many of us.

Afterward I had some very touching conversations with people, including a couple who said this was their third time attending and they look forward to my talks every year (awwwww.....), a young woman who said she attended one of my talks and was inspired to start teaching inmates at a prison where she works how to make the vegan transition, a young man who bought my cookbook and said he refers to it ALL the time, and a woman who said that when I showed the slide "Main Course: Compassion" with a photo of Cesar Chavez and his dog, Boycott, who inspired him to become vegetarian, she almost cried.  I truly feel fortunate to be able to get to do what I do.

Thank you to everyone who attended and made this such a fun event.  Thank you also to Kathy DeRoches for all her hard work organizing the vegfest, the wonderful volunteers, vegan vendors and informative presenters, and Erica Ueberbacher for the photos.  I am so inspired now and can't wait to get started planning my next event!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

UMASS Guest Chef

I was the featured guest chef recently at the Franklin dining hall ay UMass Amherst cooking up a vegan menu in honor of Earth Day.  The event was coordinated by the P-Nut student group which teaches about the health and environmental benefits of adopting a plant-based diet.

It was a pleasure to work with the kitchen crew and give a presentation to students afterward.  So many great questions demonstrating a knowledge of sustainable agriculture, organics, the dangers of GMOs, and a concern for animals.

I wish I knew this much when I was a college student, and I wish they taught this kind of stuff back then!  Nonetheless, it gives me such hope that future generations will take care of our planet and lead people on the right path.

Planting a Chef's Garden Class

I held the first official class at Ahimsa Health & Harmony recently, and it was a ton of fun!  There's nothing like digging in the dirt and playing with food to make you feel like a kid again!

Twelve of us gathered in the classroom space to learn about "veganic" growing methods for kitchen gardens.  This takes the principles of organic - no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or industrial products - a step further by also avoiding animal products.  Instead of using bone meal, manure, blood meal or other animal byproducts, we use "green manure" such as seaweed, cover crops, and compost.

We planted up some pots with Fafard potting soil, coconut hulls, and liquid kelp and made a kitchen garden with oregano, chives, parsley and pansies, then tucked in some pea and nasturtium seeds to surprise us later in the season.

Everyone received a recipe for Chimichurri made with wild garlic mustard, dandelion greens, parsley and oregano, as well as a taste sample on some baguette.  I hope these little pots inspire everyone to get digging in their gardens and grow a bountiful harvest to share with family and friends!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ahimsa Health & Harmony Grand Opening!

It was a whirlwind of excitement welcoming everyone to my new vegan wellness center Ahimsa Health & Harmony this weekend.  Thank you to all who attended the Grand Opening! 

The hours of preparation made for a fabulous spread that was enjoyed by all.  

I've been reflecting on the many accomplishments over the past 13 years running my vegan personal chef service Well on Wheels and it seems like this was the perfect time to expand into a permanent home. People come to me because they want to eat a healthy diet that doesn't harm the planet or animals, but they don't know where to begin.  I help make it easy for them by cooking whole foods plant-based meals in the comfort of their own kitchens, and have shown hundreds of people how to make the vegan transition through private lessons and wellness coaching, cooking classes at public libraries, schools, adult education programs, engaging presentations at conferences and private events, staff retreats, and menu consulting.

I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to do more of this at Ahimsa Health & Harmony!  

Thank you to all of my clients, students, friends, fans and supporters!  It was a pleasure to celebrate with many of you this weekend. In particular I'd like to thank Dianne Wageman of Divine Treasures for donating a platter of incredible nut cheeses for this event, Steve LaPenta of The Bridge Tofu for donating a box of the best tofu on the planetScott Riley of Cambridge House Brew Pub for the growlers of amazing local brew, to everyone who has ever come to a cooking class or hired me to cook for them, and to my parents for their support over the years, and my mom for hostess service and dad for doorman duties during the party.    

cheese platter from Divine Treasures

Buffalo tofu bites made with The Bridge tofu

growlers of Cambridge House Brew Pub beer

I launched Ahimsa Health & Harmony because I wanted a place where likeminded people could gather and feel connected. The idea of a wellness center to me was a place that empowered people to take charge of their own health and become their best selves while also healing the planet. Following in that theme, the first official class at Ahimsa Health & Harmony will be “Planting a Chef’s Kitchen Garden” on Saturday, April 23.  Please register in advance to be sure there will be a spot for you!  Also in the works are a Vegan Culinary Tour of Hartford in May and a Tofu Making Tour at The Bridge in Middletown in June. 

Please “Like” and Share Ahimsa Health & Harmony and Well on Wheels on Facebook and tell your friends, family and co-workers about the amazing things happening here.  Remember our motto: 

“When we come together in unity with compassion for ourselves and all beings, we can heal the planet.”

And now for some more photos of the food and festivities!

buffet table in the classroom space

portobello pate with crudités 

sundried tomato arancini with roasted red pepper coulis

wheel of Kite Hill vegan brie

tempeh Waldorf salad 

raw "neatballs" with cashew béchamel and parsley pistou

spring quinoa salad with parsley pistou

cucumber, dill and cashew crema

eggless egg salad on endive boats made with The Bridge tofu

glutenfree lemonbundt cake with edible flowers 

gluten free double chocolate brownies

raw date nut truffles

happy daffodils on the windowsill