Friday, January 15, 2016

Vegan in the Mainstream

It's incredibly satisfying to read articles about veganism in the mainstream.  Connecticut is making headway on that front with restaurants, food trucks, and health professionals advocating a plant-based diet, along with numerous animal activists working for change to the political system.  I'm excited to be part of the growing community of vegans, and was happy to be featured in a recent article in the Hartford Courant, "Vegetarianism Exploding into Mainstream Culture," by Diane Church.
In recent years, vegetarianism has exploded into mainstream culture, and it seems that more people are giving up meat every day.
And it's not just the stereotypical aging hippies and idealistic college students who are scarfing down all those veggie burgers. People from all walks of life are embracing the trend.
For anyone looking for inspiration or a reason to get started, this article offers plenty of resources.  When I first became vegan 18 years ago I felt lost and confused.  An organization which helped me see what an adventure being vegan could be is the Northern Connecticut Vegetarian Society.  Their monthly potlucks opened my eyes and tastebuds to the incredible possibilities veganism had to offer.  This is one of the many resources Diane mentions.

Take a peek and give vegan a try.  I hope to see you at a vegan event or potluck some time soon, and I look forward to hearing your story.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Recipe: Gluten-free Vegan Tempeh "Crab Cakes"

I love making this recipe for parties or potlucks.  They taste just like the real thing, only better. Made without any animal products, they get their distinct flavor from a sea vegetable called dulse.  It's high in minerals as well as flavor, so you're eating healthy as well as enjoying a delicious treat.

You can see me demonstrate how to make this quick and easy recipe on my cooking segment with WWLP TV.

Tempeh “Crab” Cakes
(makes 6-8 cakes)
8 oz. tempeh, cut into cubes, boiled 5 minutes, cooled, and squeezed to remove water
1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 dill pickle, minced
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
2 Tbl vegan mayonaise
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbl lemon juice
2 tsp dulse granules
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup corn starch, plus extra for dredging

Cut tempeh into cubes and place in a pot of water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water, then squeeze out excess water and crumble tempeh into a large bowl.  Add the vegetables, vegan mayonaise, mustard, garlic powder, sea salt, lemon juice and dulse and stir to combine.  Add the bread crumbs and corn starch, then mix together with hands until all ingredients stick together.  Roll into 6-8 balls.  Flatten balls to about 1 inch thick, then pat with corn starch.  Heat a skillet on medium heat, add a thin coating of oil, then place tempeh cakes in pan, leaving space between each one.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until bottom is golden brown.  Flip cakes, then cook about 5 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from pan and serve with Vegan Remoulade and a wedge of lemon.

Vegan Remoulade
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
1-2 tsp Sriracha sauce (or any other hot sauce)
1 Tbl chopped dill pickle
2 tsp capers

Stir together all ingredients in a small bowl.  Place one tablespoon of sauce on top of each fish cake and garnish with lemon wedge.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Recipe: Glutenfree Pumpkin Tart with Pecan Praline

Thanksgiving is all about celebrating the fall harvest with family and friends, and what better way than with a decadent dessert? This recipe features traditional flavors of pumpkin and warming spices but with a healthy vegan twist.  The luscious and creamy filling is lighter than the dairy version, yet equally delicious.   

When I think of Thanksgiving I think of pies, and this recipe tastes like holidays to me.  Sweet scents waft through the air when this tart is baking in the oven.  The aromatic spices have a warming effect on the body which is perfect for when there's a chill in the air.

It's a three-step process, so you'll need to do a little planning for this recipe.  Start by preparing the crust, and chill it in the freezer for a few minutes before popping it in the oven.  While it's baking, pulse together the pecan praline topping.  When the tart crust is finished baking and has cooled, pour in the pumpkin filling.  Sprinkle with the pecan praline, then pop it back into the oven to finish baking.

This is a heavenly treat that guests will not believe is vegan or gluten-free.  With only 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, it's low fat as well, but it tastes decadent nonetheless.

Add this winning dessert to your ThanksLiving menu!

1 cup almonds
1/2 cup dried shredded coconut
1/2 cup rice flour
2 Tbl coconut oil, softened
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan.  Line with a circle of parchment paper and oil both sides of the parchment.  

Pulse nuts and coconut in food processor to form “flour” consistency.  Add flour, coconut oil agave syrup and a pinch of salt and pulse until a ball forms.  Transfer dough to pan and carefully spread evenly, making sure to press it into the sides.  Lightly prick holes into bottom with a fork and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.  Place pan on baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and firm.  Remove from oven and set aside while preparing filling and pecan praline topping.

Pecan Praline
1/4 cup vegan sugar
1/4 cup rice flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup pecans 
2 Tbl coconut oil
1/8 tsp sea salt

Pulse together all ingredients in a food processor until pecans are roughly chopped.  

14 oz. can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup vegan sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp allspice

Blend filling ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Pour into prepared crust and sprinkle with pecan praline topping.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, or until top is firm. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack.  Chill in refrigerator several hours before serving,  To serve, slice the tart using a thin, sharp knife dipped in cold water.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

PlantPure Nation Screening

It's pretty amazing when a movie has such a powerful impact on its audience.  Such was the case this afternoon with the Hartford, CT premier of "PlantPure Nation," the new documentary by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his son, Nelson.  This documentary continues in a similar theme as "Forks Over Knives," with the emphasis on building supportive plant-based communities.  I think that's exactly what we're doing in Connecticut.  

I was thrilled to walk into a packed theater, which is rare these days. We had a HUGE turnout of 87 people, a third of whom stayed for the lively discussion afterward. 

We talked about the points in the movie that resonated most, and many agreed it was that eureka moment when everything comes together and we declare, "why didn't anyone ever tell me about this?!!"  We also discussed the need to have a vegan support network, ways of integrating the message into our everyday lives with family, friends and co-workers, and how to stay connected through Meetup and social media.  

When asked about questions which remained to be answered, many wanted to know more about the next steps for the PlantPure "Pods."  While that process gets more formalized, in the meantime I invited everyone to join my Vegan Health & Wellness Meetup to stay in touch and keep posted on upcoming events.  

I'm so excited to be part of this growing community and I look forward to continuing to spread the vegan message. Thank you everyone for attending! 

Friday, October 30, 2015

VegUp!! Part Two!!

Last night we had another fantastic gathering of the Hartford chapter of VegUp, an organization founded by Jane Velez-Mitchell to promote a sense of community among vegans.

After our first meeting just a little over a month ago, I already feel like I've known everyone forever, as we've fast become good friends.  I'd even go so far as to say my second family!

Sixteen of us gathered together at Fire & Spice, a vegan Jamaican restaurant in Hartford.  We started out in the front room, thinking that there would be around 8-10 of us.  That rapidly grew to the point where we were crowding the entire tiny space, so we moved our group to the back room.  There we were able to spread out and have a lively conversation about the topic of being vegan for the holidays.

Everyone had a chance to introduce themselves and share a little about their vegan journey.  We were thrilled to have four new members, one of whom was celebrating his first day being vegan with us!  It was an honor to be able to answer any questions he had and share our personal experiences to help him prepare for the journey.  This felt like true community support, and exactly what every vegan who has ever felt lonely and confused needs.

Al celebrating Day #1 as a Vegan!!

Here's what one participant had to say about her experience:
"I had *SO* much fun tonight. You are such an inspiration and excel at repeatedly organizing a bunch of strangers to come together and have some heartfelt, meaningful discussion. Every time I walk away feeling so happy to know I'm not the 'only one' around... there is a whole community of fabulous humans who were just waiting for a little (vegan!) glue to pull us together smile emoticon I'm excited to meet new friends who share my passion... thank you!"
Our next get together will be a holiday potluck in December.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who is already looking forward to it and scouring cookbooks and food blogs for the perfect impress-your-guests dish to bring.

Thank you all who attended!!

Monday, October 26, 2015

A return to Boston Veg Fest

I was thrilled to return to Boston for the 20th Anniversary of the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival this weekend.  Highlights were seeing one of my vegan heroes, Jane Velez-Mitchell, give a rousing talk imploring vegans to get active for the animals.  She gave examples of many recent demonstrations and disruptions which are having a powerful impact in galvanizing support for animals among the general public.  I'm excited to be part of this growing movement!

Jane Velez-Mitchell inspires the crowd to tip the tipping point

Evelyn Kimber, organizer of Boston VegFest

Dr. Kim Allan Williams speaking about the connection between diet and disease

Vegan Treats from Bethlehem, PA, always a crowd favorite

Sabertooth Bakery, Taco Party and FoMu