Sunday, June 28, 2015

Life lesson #36

This is a little different form my usual food and gardening posts.  It's a story followed by a metaphor which will end with a life lesson, as I'm forever trying to put meaning to whatever random thing happens in my life. Read on if you like that kind of stuff.
I took my dog Boo out for our morning walk to the park, but halfway there I realized I was wearing my flip-flops instead of sneakers which meant I couldn't walk through our usual spot we've parted through the bushes because of all the poison ivy. Instead, I walked past that area and decided to cross the street to walk the grounds of an abandoned nursing home that's for sale. It's a fairly large property with woods surrounding it and nice plantings in front, so I figured at least it would be something new for Boo to sniff and explore. I'm glad I did because along the side of the parking lot I noticed tons of sweet-smeling dried berry debris, and when I looked up it was as if I had entered a magical kingdom of mulberry trees. There was a whole row of them, all with fruit in varying stages of ripeness. I gorged for about 10 minutes, but since I didn't want to make myself sick I decided that my new plan for the week is to come back every morning for foraging. Also in the back of the property were some peach and pear trees - a mini orchard! It was like a secret paradise only the birds and we knew about. I'm going to feast there all summer!
OK, that's the story. Now the lesson. As I was thinking about the whole proceedings of discovering this hidden fruit forest, I realized I would never have found it if I hadn't accidentally worn flip-flops. Which made me think "happy accident." And then also, "changing paths." How many times do you find yourself stuck in a routine and feel like you can't get out? As if you're in shackles and you have no choice. Always remember that you DO have a choice. Take a different path, at least once, for one day, even if it's just a different route to work. Notice everything around you, observe what's new and different. Maybe you'll find that hidden fruit forest. Or maybe it will just clear your head for a few minutes and give you a new perspective for the day. Change things up in your life in little ways because that's what makes living an adventure. You may end up opening a whole new world of possibilities you never even imagined. 
I was feeling it, being in the moment, just listening to the birds, feeling the cool morning breeze, the wet dew on my feet, and letting it all happen. It reminded me to not get caught up in my head and my worries, to just observe and be present and open to new discoveries, because they're right there in front of us. Sometimes I forget to let that part of me be open. This is the revelation I needed, that I was hoping a hike in the woods would bring me, and yet even without the hike it happened anyway.
Change paths. Make mistakes. Wear flip flops.  heart emoticon

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Vegan Ice Cream Social


Summer is here, and what better way to kick it off than with a good old fashioned ice cream social!  Eleven of us gathered together at Well on Wheels headquarters to learn how to make icecream and feast on a menu featuring strawberry shortcake, four flavors of vegan icecream, double chocolate brownies and coconut whipped cream. I feel like I ate a house. 



 I'm really happy to be able to share delicious food with everyone, and I loved the positive response.
"So delicious, Mary!!!"
"That was quite a treat today!"
"Karen and I had such a wonderful time, and felt so at home with everyone. Thank you so much for hosting such an amazing afternoon, Mary...you're fantastic!!! ...and for the chance to meet such awesome people."
Preparations began nearly a week ahead as I transformed the kitchen into an ice cream production facility.  Recipes were tested and tweaked and flavor combinations invented to create a Five Course Dessert Tasting Menu of pure decadence.  



We started off with a seasonal favorite, Strawberry Shortcake.  This version was made with a spongey, gluten free cake layered in a parfait cup with gorgeous, sweet local strawberries and topped with a luscious coconut whipped cream and mint sprig from my garden.



Then we got into the ice cream.  The next course was a Hot Fudge Sundae made with Maple Bourbon Butter Pecan and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk ice cream.  The scoops sat atop a dense double chocolate gluten free brownie and were topped with a stream of chocolate sauce.    



I think the unanimous favorite was the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk which had a rich and creamy base of full fat coconut milk and was sweetened with coconut sugar which added a hint of caramel flavor, loads of natural peanut butter, and chunks and swirls of chocolate embedded throughout.   



The next course was a Blueberry Streusel ice cream topped with a fresh blueberry sauce, date nut granola, and a dollop of coconut whipped cream.  It was light by comparison, but still super dreamy delicious.  This one would've made Violet Beauregard deliriously happy.



We finished with a demonstration of how to make ice cream.  For this I chose a simple tropical flavor combination of mango and coconut.  I explained the process of incorporating the sugar into the coconut milk, chilling, preparing the ice cream maker, cutting a mango, and starting the churning process.  



After twenty minutes, we had a silky soft serve treat to savor.  Once we cleaned out the container, the real socializing began as we dug our spoons into the remaining ice cream I had prepared.  Seconds?  Thirds?  Who's counting!  



Thank you everyone for making this such a fabulous event. I look forward to hosting more events like this over the summer.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Healing Outside the Box


I was happy to return to the set of "Healing Outside the Box," on North Haven public access TV, to speak about creating a vegan kitchen.  Host Rosemary LaChance spoke with me about the obstacles people often face when making the vegan transition, including the inconvenience of eating with family and friends, time constraints, lack of motivation and support, confusion about where to begin and what foods to eat for maximum nutrition.  I shared tips and strategies for how to eat a healthy, whole foods vegan diet and gave some background on my own experience.  Plus I got to talk about animals, which I always like the best.


If you missed the live broadcast, it will be aired on Frontier cable in various locations throughout southern Connecticut over the next few months. Visit Rosemary's page for more information and to see the schedule.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

From Health Crisis to Activist

Recently, Paul Schulman of VeganFierce.com solicited readers to write articles about their vegan transition.  Mine is a long story, which had several failed attempts before sticking 18 years ago.  He asked me to focus on how making the decision to go vegan became my life's focus, and eventually lead to me starting my personal chef business business, Well on Wheels.  I'm excited that the article was just published on the site!   You can read the full story here:

From Health Crisis to Activist: Making the Vegan Transition

Monday, June 1, 2015

Vegan Culinary Tour of Southeast Asia

Eleven of us gathered together for the third installment of the Vegan Culinary Tour, this time with a Southeast Asian flair, by way of A Dong market in West Hartford.  The first part of the tour took us through the 30,000 square feet maze of aisles where we identified, examined, sniffed and held exotic produce such as galangal, banana blossoms, mocha balls, dried mushrooms, licorice root, and pretty tiffins and melamine kitchenware.  This was followed by a sumptuous Asian inspired vegan lunch at Well on Wheels world headquarters.  Below are the highlights.

group photo outside A Dong 

goodie bags!!

the table filled with items of prosperity and abundance

preparing for the feast

serving the first course

first course:  fresh rolls with peanut satay sauce

second course:  som um green papaya salad with a duo of kimchi

main course:  Indonesian gado gado

side: szechuan baby boo toy

digging in and digging it

my plate

dessert course #1:  mochi and coconut cake

dessert course #2: more mochi and banana coconut custard

dessert course #3: sticky rice and sweet red beans in banana leaf 

dessert course #4:  dragonfruit

cut up dragonfruit

my dessert plate

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Vegan Culinary Tour of Southeast Asia


I'm getting excited for the third installment of the Vegan Culinary Tour.... this one with an Asian flair.  This tour will take the confusion out of the chaos and show guests how to navigate through the maze of aisles filled with treasures from Southeast Asia. A Dong Market contains over 30,000 square feet of Chinatown transported to suburban West Hartford with all the produce, spices and ingredients needed to cook Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Laotian, Malaysian, and Japanese cuisine.  After the tour, we will adjourn to a separate location to feast on a sumptuous vegan lunch prepared with items purchased from the store. 


For the past few days I've been prepping the menu, arranging furniture, and getting the gallery ready for the popup vegan dinner that will follow the tour.  I found this lovely sunflower painting in tag sale leftovers that had been brought out to the curb of a home in Windsor.  I think the ladders need some viney things and flowers.  

I was so happy to hang some paintings by my late grandfather.  He used to get those paint by numbers kits in the 60s and 70s, paint them as a hobby, then build his own frames in his workshop.  After he passed away and my family was cleaning out the house, these almost ended up in the trash, but I quickly dashed in and rescued them.  Hanging in the window is a lovely stained glass from MOMA my friend Joan gave me as a wedding gift a lifetime ago.  Underneath are vintage paint cans that came with my current house and a 1918 brick from the New Haven apartment I lived in previously.  


My friend, Dianna, loaned me these two paintings flanking the Matisse poster years ago when I needed artwork to decorate my kitchen.  After I moved to my new house, she said I could keep them. I think they work perfectly on this wall.  


This afternoon I will be purchasing an array of Chinatown party goods to decorate the space.  I think this is my favorite part of hosting a party.