Sunday, April 26, 2009

ZuZu Luxe Dual Powder Foundation

I think I finally found the perfect makeup! I had been using Zia pressed powder for the longest time, ever since dumping my high school sweetheart, Cover Girl. It's a cruelty-free makeup made with natural ingredients and it was available at my local health food store. But then they stopped carrying it and I was at a loss.

I temporarily switched to Ecco Bella (which interestingly has a new gluten-free line), but it was so expensive and didn't last quite as long. It seemed I was buying a new compact every month and you you have to buy the entire thing instead of just a less expensive refill. At $27.95, I was feeling the pinch. Plus, they kept running out of my shade.

This week I was waiting in line at FoodWorks in Guilford and caught my eye on their makeup display (how sneaky to put that stuff up by the registers). When I saw the row of little pressed powder samples by Gabriel Cosmetics, I couldn't resist testing them. I'm glad I did. The texture is smooth and silky without being greasey, and velvety soft without being flakey. I hate it when powder flies everywhere and makes me sneeze. This didn't happen with the ZuZu Luxe dual powder foundation. At $21.95 it wasn't cheap, but after using it for a week I feel as if I've barely scraped the surface, so I think it will last longer than the others.

And it feels so refreshing to wear, leaving my face with a healthy natural glow rather than a shine. This is the most natural looking and feeling cruelty-free, vegan makeup I've come across and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who has been searching for that elusive combination. Wear in good health!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Legislation followup

I'm so excited that the Dissection Choice Bill PASSED in the CT House! This means that kids who don't want animals killed for science class dissection projects can have another option. It always used to make me sad seeing those poor little fetal piggies on the lab table drenched in formaldehyde.


4/22 UPDATE: Dissection Choice Bill (HB6565) was passed by CT House 114-32!!

We now need you to contact your Senators and urge them to support the bill as well!

Dear Connecticut residents and animal advocates,

This afternoon, we learned that thanks to the support of compassionate people around the State, the CT House of Representatives voted 114-32 to pass HB6565 -
An Act Concerning a Policy Regarding Dissection in Classrooms (, that will allow students to opt-out of classroom animal dissections. The bill will now be referred to the Senate floor and could come up for a vote any day. Students and animals are counting on you to urge your State Senator to vote in favor of this important legislation.

You can find contact information for your Connecticut State Senator here:


Title: Please SUPPORT HB 6565

Dear Sen. NAME:

Please vote in favor of An Act Concerning a Policy Regarding Dissection in Classrooms (HB6565). This bill overwhelmingly passed through the House on April 22 and would prohibit educators from requiring students to participate in animal dissections as part of classroom instruction, thereby protecting students in our State who have objections to harming animals as part of their education. HB6565 would place Connecticut in line with 15 other states that have passed similar laws and resolutions that create more inclusive learning environments for students and encourage the integration of educationally-superior, humane learning methods in science curricula.

Thank you.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Eat Your Veggies

I had fun this afternoon at the Guilford Public Library where I did a presentation called "Eat Your Veggies!"
I began with a little Powerpoint slideshow on the dreaded "Lifestyle Syndrome" and how to manage it by eating a whole foods plant-based diet. The solution? Lots of greens, beans, and berries. Throw in a little spice, too... like turmeric, cayenne and cinnamon, as well as a good dose of garlic and ginger, and you should be hopping around in no time!

The recipes for today were quick and easy -- Curried Chickpea and Quinoa Pilaf and Sauteed Kale with Toasted Pine Nuts. I hope everyone that was there was able to get a sample and enjoyed what they tasted.

Several people who came in for the presentation after mine commented that they smelled the enticing aromas throughout the library and followed their noses to the meeting room. That's always a good sign.

Thank you to all who attended this event!

(and extra special thanks to my two assistants, mom & dad!!)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vegan Flan

I've been on a quest for the perfect vegan flan lately, and decided to take a shot at creating it myself this weekend. A few years ago, I created a Mango Tango Flan which was more like a loose cheesecake with a nut crust than a custardy flan with caramel top, though nonetheless delicious. I was striving for authentic this time (albeit without all the eggs and condensed milk). I think I came pretty close, and I now have an idea how to perfect it on the second try. The key: cook that caramel syrup almost to the point where you think you've gone too far (I stopped a little too soon and ended up with a soupy syrup in the end). I made the flan with soy milk, but I think next time I try it I'm going for the extra rich Silk creamer and some Tofutti cream cheese for extra creaminess (modified recipe below).

For the Caramel:
1/2 cup Sucanat
1/4 cup water

Place the sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and bring to a rapid boil. Lower heat, simmer and cook until sauce becomes thick and coats back of spoon. Pour into the bottom of 8" cake pan.

For the Custard:
2 cups Silk soy creamer
2 tsp agar-agar powder
1/2 cup firm Mori Nu silken tofu
4 oz. Tofutti cream cheese
1/4 cup organic sugar
1 Tbl vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

While caramel is cooking, place the Silk creamer in a medium pot and stir in the agar agar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the agar has dissolved. Put the tofu, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, salt, and soy creamer mixture in a blender and blend until very smooth. Pour into cake pan over the syrup, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours. To remove, slide a knife around the perimeter of the cake pan and lightly shake side to side. If the flan doesn't loosen, dip the bottom of the cake pan in hot water for about 15 seconds, then turn over onto a plate. Garnish with fresh berries.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Passover Seder Dinner

Last night Passover began at sundown, and it was my first experience preparing a vegan Passover Seder dinner. I found inspiration for my menu in an excellent book (thanks, Sandy!) by Debra Wasserman called The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook.

I stuck with tradition, following Sephardic rules and staying away from chametz grains like wheat, barley and rye, which I do anyway since they all contain gluten (which I can't eat). It was exciting to prepare a meal with spices common to Moroccan Jews like cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, paprika and sesame seeds (in my case: a mushroom gravy made with tahini). Anything in the Nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant) are also popular for this occasion. I'm very pleased with the menu I developed and with the way everything turned out.


Cornmeal Crusted Tofu Cutlets with Mushroom Gravy
Curried Chickpea and Quinoa Pilaf
Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant and Red Pepper Caviar)
Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette and Caramelized Shallots
Warm Russian Dried Fruit Compote

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New York, NY

I just got back from a combined social visit and research trip to New York. The morning we left New Haven was dreary and rainy, and clouds hovered in the sky during the entire train ride, threatening a gloomy day ahead in the city. But I never lost hope that the sun would peek through and brighten the day.

We arrived at Grand Central around 3:00 Saturday afternoon -- tired, hungry, disoriented, and in desperate need of some comfort. Curly's Vegetarian Lunch was the perfect ticket out of the miasma.

Me out front with my brand new Stella McCartney bag (thanks, Dianna!!)

The restaurant was tiny and cozy with an inviting diner flare and the welcoming manifesto: "Where Vegetarians, Vegans and Sympathetic Omnivores can always find something good to eat." Who could go wrong with that kind of promise?

It took awhile to study the extensive menu filled with vegetarian versions of All-American favorites like sloppy joe's, BLT's, crabcakes and breakfast all day items. Plus, we were distracted by the placemat artwork decorating the walls (as well as the bright sun beaming through the window!).

I finally decided to "go faux" by ordering the Tofu Rancheros - two big slabs of grilled tofu on top of 3 slices of "Sham" (faux ham slices) and corn tortillas, slathered by black beans, warm salsa and a heaping mound of tofu sour cream and shredded Follow Your Heart Cheese. To balance out the meal, I opted for the side salad instead of the Curly Fries. I think that's what kept my energy level up the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening we had dinner reservations for Counter. I love the atmosphere: dark, moody, chic, yet unpretentious enough that an older couple in jeans and fanny packs seemed right at home seated at the bar sipping wine.

I apologize for the pictures - our secluded little corner was lit only by a solitary tea light that just didn't do the food justice. Nonetheless, it all tasted fabulous. They start the table off with a plate of olive bread and dipping sauce made of hot chili oil, tofu bits and various herbs & spices (our waitress said it was a melange of rosemary, oregano and Ethiopian berbere spice mix).

We chose the Mezze platter of 3 appetizers: Corn Beignets with Remoulade, Zaalok (roasted red pepper and eggplant spread with toast points), and the special of the evening Buffalo Mushrooms with Vegan Ranch dressing. These were all outstanding, particularly the beignets which were delicate little fritters that had been lightly deepfried then dipped in a decadent cream sauce scented with fresh rosemary. Even my non-vegan dining companion was impressed.

For our entrees, we selected the pasta special which was a handcut Papardelle with Baby Asparagus, Snap Peas and Trumpet Mushroom in a Light Lemon Sauce, and the Cauliflower "Risotto," which didn't have any rice at all but was instead a finely chopped mash of cauliflower studded by snap peas and shiitake mushroom in a cream sauce (which, alas, was more pastey than creamy, to my chagrin).

We ended the meal with a Hot Fudge Sundae which, of course, was nothing like what you'd find at your average Dairy Queen. A dense little chocolate cake was encircled by a ring of thick, rich dark chocolate sauce, which then was encircled by a caramel sauce. This was topped by a scoop of freshly made vanilla ice cream. You'd have to ask if it was vegan if the waitress hadn't already said so. All in all, an exceptional dining experience.

Shoreline Diner and Vegetarian Enclave

Last week I spent some time consulting with the Shoreline Diner and Vegetarian Enclave in Guilford, CT to develop some vegan items for their Daily Specials menu. Over the past few weeks I've been testing recipes for a breakfast item, lunch item and gluten-free item. It's tough translating what works in a home kitchen to what will be quick and easy to prepare in a fast-paced restaurant environment, but I'll keep my fingers crossed these will be hits! I enjoyed my afternoon spent with Louis and the rest of the kitchen crew who will be expertly preparing these three specials for the month of April. Be sure to stop in and check them out!

Southwestern Tofu Fritatta with Salsa and Avocado

Hummus Stuffed Portobello Steaks with Herbed Quinoa, Baby Greens and Red Pepper Dice

Mediterranean Pasta - Gluten-free Rice Penne with White Beans, SUndried Tomatoes, Artichoke Hearts, Kalamata Olives and Garlic Greens

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Seven Healthy Habits for Destressing Your Diet

It seems only fitting that with income taxes due April 15th, April has come to be known as Stress Awareness Month. I can't imagine any other time of the year that I'm more troubled by stabbing pains in my neck and back, restless sleep, grogginess in the morning and panic attacks that strike for no apparent reason. Except maybe Thanksgiving through New Year... but that's another story.

And then there's the recurrent theme of recession plaguing the media.

In a recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), 80% of respondents said the economy was a significant cause of stress in their lives. During these difficult times it’s often tempting to turn to comfort foods as a coping mechanism, reaching for the quick fix of candy, baked goods, fried foods and ice cream. But instead of sabotaging your wellbeing with refined sugar and fats, why not choose to take control of the situation by eating healthfully? Practicing these simple healthy eating habits will not only empower you during times of stress, but also provide a sustainable lifestyle to prepare you for smooth sailing ahead.

Take Control of Your Diet During times of stress, B vitamins tend to be depleted from our bodies. Choose foods such as greens, beans and whole grains that are loaded with this nutrient. They’ll fill you up for pennies per serving and leave you feeling satisfied, resilient and calm. To aid in the breakdown of stress hormones, eat plenty of Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage. Foods in the Allium family – onion, garlic, leeks and scallions – are rich in sulfur which strengthens the detoxification process.

Cook at Home Preparing meals at home is more affordable than eating out, and can save time, too. Soups, stews and pastas can be prepped in big batches at the beginning of the week, then portioned out into containers which can be heated in minutes after a long day at work. Bags of prewashed salad and other greens can be combined with chopped nuts or seeds, dried fruit and a simple dressing for another fast meal. It’s all quick, easy and economical.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Cutting back on meat consumption, desserts and prepared foods will trim your budget as well as your waistline. Try substituting beans, tofu or tempeh in place of meat at least one meal per week. Reuse and recycle leftovers – chili and rice can transform into a burrito filling the next day. Extra veggies that don’t get eaten for dinner are perfect in a pot of minestrone soup for tomorrow’s lunch.

Mindful Eating Try to make eating a joyful ritual. Think about the food, where it comes from, how it looks on your plate and how good your body will feel after eating it. The process of thinking while eating will slow you down and make you aware of the connection you have with food. It’s also a nice way to divert your mind from the worries of the day.

Chew Slowly Take time to savor each bite. Breathe deeply as you chew, slowly counting to 30 as your teeth do their work. Enzymes in the mouth help break down starches and ensure optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Indulge Your Senses A plate of vibrantly colored vegetables is a pleasure to behold. We eat with our eyes first, so always remember to include a rainbow of foods from the full spectrum. Contrasting colors such as red and green (think: tomatoes and zucchini in ratatouille or a sizzling red and green pepper fajita, for example) nearly jump off the plate and into our stomachs. Bright colors also mean the food is loaded with immune boosting antioxidants which help fight free radical damage caused by stress.

Finally, Be Kind Respect your body and pay attention to its needs. Stress is a normal part of life, but high levels of anxiety that result in physical ailments such as migraines, stomach aches, sleeplessness and fatigue are signals to focus inward. Be thankful for these signs. As you nourish yourself from within by eating foods that support a healthy immune system, you strengthen your ability to cope with whatever situation comes your way.