February 14 (aka: Valentine’s Day or Single Awareness Day)

So, have you been to the store to find a chocolatey treat for your Valentine yet?  Have you dared to look at the ingredients lists on those beautiful heart-shaped boxes that appeal so much to a woman’s heart for some reason?  (Image courtesy of pamsclipart.com.)  Um-hmmm…depressing, isn’t it?  I have yet to discover one that I can eat (dairy and corn syrup allergies.)  Sure, the health food store might have something passable, but it’s not in one of those cute little boxes, now is it?  And if I can’t have the box, don’t bother with only passable candy.  I want the good stuff!

Aaaaaannnd, how do I get the good stuff then?  Well, of course, I have to make it myself.  Not as romantic as a heart-shaped box, but, hey, it still is good chocolate.  😉  If you don’t happen to have a Valentine, or are clear across the country from him/her, you get to eat it all yourself.  (My now-single eldest son says Valentine’s Day is actually Single Awareness Day – S.A.D.)

This year I am clear across the country from my adorable and adoring hubby.  How did this happen, you ask?  Well, I came to visit my oldest son and take care of my precious granddaughter while she’s with her dad this month.  I figure it is my “job” to make their Valentine’s Day special since we’re all on our own tomorrow.  The best thing I know to give my loved ones (since I can’t get any of those blasted unhealthy heart-shaped boxes!) is Chocolate FudgeChocolate (Nut) Fudge.  Now, I’ve posted this recipe before, but I learned something new making it in my son’s kitchen.  (I’ve posted about trying to cook in his kitchen before here.)  You do not need a double boiler (or a facsimile thereof.)  It is now easier than ever to whip up a batch of fudge.

So, grab your measuring cups and get busy making a wonderful gift for your favorite person!

Why I Choose to Use Honey and Still Call Myself a “Vegan”

This topic can be a hotly debated ~ something which I will not engage in on this blog.  This post is just to explain why I, personally, choose honey while calling myself a vegan.  Any comments that are confrontational will not be approved.  Sorry.  My blog, my rules.  🙂

I gave up animal products gradually for health and, eventually, allergy reasons.  I didn’t do it to save the planet, or save the animals (both of which I love very much.) Therefore, my decision to use honey tends toward the health benefits it gives, as has my departure from animal products.

Labels that we give ourselves can get sticky over the years as the parameters morph with people’s opinions of what those labels mean.  I do not eat meat, dairy, or eggs.  I do, however, wear leather shoes (again, for health reasons, since it allows for the feet to breathe and plastics do not) and eat honey.  You see, many years ago, when “vegan” first became a term, I understood that it meant not eating meat, dairy, and eggs.  No one put an absolute definition in the dictionary.  So, I “became a vegan.”  Then more people jumped on the bandwagon.  The parameters began to change somehow.  (I really don’t understand how that happens.)  People became angry if you called yourself a vegan and still ate honey, or wore leather, but nobody created a new word to cover what vegan used to cover!  I suppose I could say I’m a plant-based eater, but that is a mouthful.  It’s easier to just say vegan and not bother to explain details.  Most people really don’t care anyway.

Now – the health benefits.  These I have seen for myself.  I know it kills bacteria, because in my younger days I stirred some into a large container of plain yogurt to sweeten it.  It was great the first day, but when I came back the next, it was a runny liquid mess.  It had killed all of the bacteria in the yogurt!  So I know the anti-bacterial effects.  Next, raw honey has been used on a gum infection in my family with a great healing effect when nothing else was working, not even prescription washes.  When people say it’s anti-bacterial, I believe it.

Here are a couple of links that speak to honey’s benefits:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02033065?LI=true

http://www.aces.edu/urban/metronews/vol8no2/HealthHoney.html

There.  I hope that clears up why I use it in my blog.  Feel free to substitute something that meets your personal ethics, or join me in using it.

A Word of Concern about Silk Milk Products

Last week in the grocery store I noticed with dismay that my favorite coconut vanilla flavor Silk milk had a “new and improved” label on it’s carton.  In my experience, “new and improved” usually isn’t improved.  It’s usually just cheaper for the manufacturer and somehow less than impressive for the consumer.  This time is no exception.

Upon looking closer at the new label, I discovered one glaring change:  cane sugar instead of evaporated cane juice.  What is the difference you ask?  Regular sugar has been whitened by using bone meal.  So, even though evaporated cane juice is more pricey, I made the decision long ago to use it.

In addition to my coconut milk being almost sickenly sweet now (yes, I did buy some before I realized what the difference was), as well as filtered through bone meal, it also is thinner than before.

I looked at the Silk soy in my refrigerator, and it has the same issue.  I do not know about the other Silk flavors and types, but I imagine they have also been changed, or will be soon.  Check yours.  Make an informed choice.  Personally, I will be trying out other brands.

What it comes down to is that the makers of Silk have decided to lessen their production costs at our expense.  They did this once before when the company was purchased from it’s original owners.  With no notice, it went from being organic to non-organic.  I kept buying it then, because it still had better flavor and texture than most others.  This time, I’m not continuing the march into mediocrity.

If you are as unhappy about this as I am, please contact Silk and let them know.  If enough of us complain and take our business elsewhere, perhaps they will listen and go back to healthier options.

Vegan Health in the News

This is an important article, folks, that I’m recommending to you.  If the thought of cancer terrifies you ~ make sure you read this.  It is good news for vegans!  Click the title below.

A Vegan Diet (Hugely) Helpful Against Cancer

We need to get the word out about how much safer it is for our bodies when we are vegan.

 

Vegetarian Tasting Extravaganza!

A week ago on Sunday, I participated in the annual Vegetarian Tasting Extravaganza (VTE) that took place at Centerville Seventh-day Adventist Church here in Ohio.  This has been going on for over a decade and is very popular with the vegetarians/vegans in the community.  (There is a health fair that goes on at the same time.)  Between guests, cooks, helpers, and medical folks from the health fair, 300-350 are typically fed from each cook’s table.  Flyers go out to the community, as well as signage being displayed about the event.

Each cook prepares enough of her dish (published in a simple unbound cook”book” available for purchase by guests) to provide 1-2 oz. samples for each of the 300-350 people going through line.  (There are 2 sessions, so that there is enough seating for everyone.)  A salad bar is also provided.  I prepared Southwestern Skillet.

This year was very exciting!  Most of the dishes were vegan or had vegan versions available upon request!  (It’s a good thing, because we actually were visited by the local Meet-Up Vegan Dayton group.)  Also thrilling to me were the number of people who made gluten-free versions of their loaves, crackers, etc.

Live piano music is played in the fellowship hall where the serving is done.  My scheduled time to play for this was at the last half hour.  Unfortunately, by the time I closed up my music and dashed back to the food line (cooks eat last), many of the items were gone!  (We served a very large crowd this year.)  Those I did get to sample were wonderful.  My teen sons and grown daughter gave me the run-down on the rest of them.  🙂

Here are some photos from the VTE ~ by no means all of them.  Click on each photo to see a large version of them.  Thanks go to my son who took the pictures while I was serving my dish. The lighting was relatively dim for photography, but he did a good job.  (Decorations are at the discretion of each cook – from simple place settings showing how their food would be served, to displays of ingredients used, to gorgeous, talented decorations appropriate to their dish.)

 

Airport Food for Vegans

Going out to eat just anywhere can be a serious challenge for vegans unless they are content with yet another salad and unadorned baked potato.  However, traveling where your choices are limited by whatever is in the airport ~ now you’ve got a real challenge!  Today I don’t have a recipe ~ just some places in a couple of airports to find real live vegan food.

In September, I took a flight out to California.  I had no trouble, because I packed a meal for myself and ate well.  On the flight back, though, all I managed to wrangle for myself easily was a good-sized bag of trail mix that I made for myself.  Now, this can keep you from starving, but it can be very boring and make you long for something different.  (Especially if you don’t put chocolate chips in it!  What is trail mix without chocolate chips?  lol)

Oh, I forgot to mention…I had to be dropped off at LAX at 6:30 in the morning so that my son could make it back for his rotation at the hospital (he’s in medical school.)  My flight didn’t leave until about noon.  I did eat a very, very early breakfast ~ we’re talking 4:30 a.m. here! ~ but that only gets you so far.  By the time the bargain company I was flying opened their desk at 9:15 or later, I was just about ready to go find food already!

I ran the gauntlet of the TSA and headed for the pricey food vendors.  Not only was I trolling to see what they had for vegans, but I needed to avoid wheat, too, if I at all could.  I passed by pizzas and stale-looking fruit cups.  I was afraid this just wasn’t going to be pretty.  I was momentarily arrested by a See’s Candy kiosk where I almost succumbed to the lure!!

Finally I came across a lovely little corner where there was a family-run business ~ Camacho’s Cafe ~ complete with seating.  (From what I read on their signs, they have at least one other location in LA that is doing very nicely.)  A quick perusal of the menu made me very, very happy!  I ordered a veggie fajita (that came with either wheat or corn tortillas) and some incredible guacamole on a bed of shredded lettuce.  They had a beautiful set-up with fresh salsas to choose from, too.  I couldn’t believe how much they’d packed into this little corner!  And the food was amazing.  I was so happy to have found healthy, vegan food at Terminal 1 at LAX!

Next stop was Atlanta airport.  (Man, that place is HUGE!!)  I was thankful I had enough time to mosey around and find food there, too, because it had been 8 hours since my fajita with only trail mix on which to subsist!  (My airline only gives out wheat products for snacks, and tiny ones at that, so I was happy to have my stash.)  Apparently, some of the concourses in Atlanta have more food options than others.  Also, the later it gets, the fewer things are open!  I was so hungry for something starchy ~ hang the calories.  After a few less-than-what-I-was-looking-for options, I finally found what hit the spot.  A place called Charley’s Steakery.  Doesn’t that sound like the best place for a vegan to find food??  😀  They had lovely fruit bowls for decent prices that had fresh pineapple, honeydew melon, strawberries, blueberries, etc., and to give me my starch fix, steak fries!  (Yeah, probably not the greatest option for a health-minded person, but I was exhausted, hungry, and beyond caring at that point.  It was food.  It wasn’t wheat or animal-based, and it didn’t come from Mickey D’s.  I was eating it.)

All in all, I highly recommend planning ahead so that you aren’t going to starve if your airport doesn’t have the options that mine did.  (By the time I got home to Dayton, every single restaurant was locked up tight!)  But don’t count out unusual places to find good food!  Happy flying.

Sometime in the next post or so, I am going to feature a wonderful local event called the Vegetarian Tasting Extravaganza.  It was just marvelous and filled with vegan food this year!  If I can contact some of the cooks, I’m going to see if I can feature some of their recipes, too.

Fun Recipe Recommendation

Every once in a while a recipe comes across my computer that I just have to share.  This one is just plain ol’ fun and silly ~ but the most fun is in the comments.  If there are any other recipe bloggers or die-hard readers of online recipes out there, you will especially find it funny in comparison to the usual commentary found at the bottom of a recipe!

Take a look at this one, put your tongue firmly in your cheek, and laugh for a while!  (The 1st page of the comments was where the funniest things were.)

Click here to see the recommended recipe.

The Well-appointed Kitchen

When I get home, I am going to kiss my husband, hug my children, pet the cat, and walk into my kitchen for a moment of silence.

I am visiting my now-bachelor son in sunny California.  He is in his 4th year of medical school ~ almost to the finish line!  He needed some good home cooking and some company due to life’s most difficult moments, so I hopped on a plane and came out.  Time for some mommy “magic.”  🙂

Mind you, I tried to plan ahead.  I brought recipes (that aren’t yet on this blog), a baggie of chicken seasoning (recipe on this blog), and a grocery shopping list.  What I couldn’t bring with me is my well-appointed kitchen!  I didn’t realize just how precious it is!  This week I have wanted to make some different things several times only to realize ~ the only large mixing bowl was in the frig full of watermelon ~ the frying pan wasn’t fit to be used ~ the mixer had walked away with his ex (along with many, many other pieces of kitchenware) and I had to make frosting by hand ~ the cake pan (that I bought in order to be able to make a birthday cake) still contained the cake, so granola bars were out of the question ~ cucumbers are much harder to peel with a knife than with the missing peeler ~ nuts can be chopped in the blender, albeit unevenly ~ and I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

I remembered during this process that many years ago I began methodically buying duplicates of my most-used cooking items to avoid this kind of frustration.  I actually have 5  9×13″ pans (1 glass) so that if one has a cake in it, I can still make a “meat”loaf and put an extra in the freezer or take to a potluck or a sick friend.  I have 1 enormous and 2 very large mixing bowls (with a back-up plastic cheapie in the back of a cupboard just in case which since I first posted this has now found it’s way to my son’s kitchen.)  I have a multitude of platters of different sizes, 1- and 2-quart serving bowls, spatulas, wooden spoons, nylon spoons and utensils, etc.  And there are still days when I look in my cupboards and find I really have used them all!!!  (On those days, you can’t fit another thing in my 2 frigs, either.  Remember, I told you I had hungry, hungry teenage boys.)

So, now you understand why I will need a moment of silent appreciation in my kitchen when I get home.  I have a new understanding of its worth.

(And I didn’t even mention the value of a well-stocked pantry!  You know ~ spices, seasonings, flours, rising agents, and the stuff you make sure you never run out of because you use it constantly.)

It still isn’t perfect, but my son’s kitchen has been slightly upgraded to a better situation suitable to a busy bachelor.  There is onion and garlic powder, basil, and Italian seasoning there, as well as a vegetable peeler, some cheap wooden spoons, and a new lightweight frying pan.  If he was more of a cook, I am sure there would be more items on his Christmas list for his kitchen…until then, I’m certain he will survive now.

So ~ what piece of kitchen equipment, cookware, or serving ware couldn’t you live without?

Noodles & Company blogger review

Every once in a while I am going to direct you to a fellow blogger’s page, because it contains information helpful to a vegan way of life, or sometimes just a tip for a healthier way of living.

This time, I’m recommending a post from Cadry’s Kitchen as she reviews a recent trip to Noodles & Company.  It’s always helpful to hear about restaurants where vegans can easily eat!

Click here to go to the review.

Addendum to Hilton Head Island

As I was making supper tonight, I realized that I had left 1 restaurant out that caters to vegan needs.  We ended up not going there for a couple of reasons.  1) Cost.  It’s not a cheap pizza joint.  2) An influential member of the family wasn’t feeling very well and didn’t want to “waste” a pizza night on an expensive place when he couldn’t eat much….and he also was loathe to take very hungry teenaged boys there.

It’s a place called Mellow Mushroom.  Put on your bell-bottom pants and your hippie hat, because you’ll fit right in.  😀  It looks like a lot of fun.  If you get to go, please tell me if you liked it!