Vegan Peace Corps Cookies

Okay, so I was TOTALLY going to post about  the fabulous, amazing, best-thing-I’ve-ever-made dinner that I made last night. Seriously, it was so stinkin’ good. We deemed it ‘restaurant quality’, and determined that it was among the best meals we’ve eaten in recent memory.

However.

The post would have been rendered utterly un-enticing with the enhancement of photos, and someone (ahem) can’t find her camera.

I used it last night to photograph the afore-mentioned delish dinner, and I then used it to photograph the youngest child being silly. I think I left it in the girls’ room, but they’re asleep and a quick glance in the room did not reveal the camera. I am certainly not about to rouse two sleeping toddlers, so I didn’t actually venture into their room to search more thoroughly.

I know the camera will turn up. I’m just disappointed that I don’t get to post about THE dinner until later. Oh well. Every day, at my job (and in general, come to think of it), I am reminded that there are many, many people out there with problems far greater than a missing camera with pictures of a yummy vegan meal, and I consider myself very, very fortunate for my lot in life.

So, I will post the recipe for the peanut-butter chocolate bars that the girls and I made yesterday to share with various neighbors, because I had already downloaded one picture of the bars.

I really like these because they are SO quick, and they’re made with ingredients I usually have around the house (when I make them with oats, at least), and they are really quite delicious. They are a great combination of sweet and salty, with a touch of vanilla, and they have a wonderful, slightly-crunchy texture, tempered by the smooth chocolate, which also balances out the sweetness nicely. I’m not a huge chocolate fan, so I use less, but use as much as you like.

This is loosely based on a recipe I found in a Peace Corps cookbook that a dear friend gave me ages and ages ago. It is not a vegan cookbook, and not even vegetarian, and it is not mass-produced: it is a spiral-bound collection of a rather odd assortment of recipes. Some are native recipes to the countries in which volunteers served; some are standard American recipes, and some are in-a-pinch recipes. Anyways….this is one that was  a real find. I’ve made it many ways, but this is the ‘standard’ way I make it for guests. This is a quick and truly delicious recipe. Everyone who’s tried it loves it; I’ve even had some incredibly hard-core Southern meat-eating, hunting men say that this recipe has showed them that vegan good can actually be good. True, that’s not really a great compliment, but for the rural south, that’s pretty good!

1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (Nabisco grahams in the red box are vegan, and health-food stores often have vegan grahams) (you can also use a combination of ground oats and whole oats, which is how I often make these for myself) (this is about 1 whole sleeve of graham crackers; put them in a bag and roll it with a rolling pin to crush the crackers)

4-6 tablespoons Earth Balance or other vegan margarine, melted (start with 4 and add more if necessary)

1/3 cup peanut butter

salt, if needed or if using unsalted peanut butter

a small splash of vanilla

about 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 – 1 cup vegan chocolate chips, melted (the original recipe calls for a cup, which is waaaaay too much for me, but I’m not crazy about lots of chocolate)

directions:

Mix the crushed graham crackers, confectioners’ sugar, and salt if using. Add in the margarine, peanut butter and vanilla and stir to combine. You want a pretty stiff dough; you may need to use your hands to combine everything thoroughly. If the dough is liquidy at all, add more graham cracker crumbs, or some oats. I have found that the amount of margarine needed greatly depends on the humidity. If you are in a really dry climate, you may need 6 tablespoons instead of 4.  You do not want any of the dough to stick on your hands; a few crumbs sticking is okay, but no actual clumps of dough.

Press into a 9 x 9 pan. Cover with melted chocolate. Let set before scoring and eating; if you’re in a hurry (cough, cough), put them in the freezer or refrigerator to hasten the setting process.

Odds and Ends, Plus Vanilla-Coconut Cream Coffee

Wow, it’s been a while since my last post! I would like to say that I have a good excuse, but of course I don’t. Work, teaching, kids, running, cooking…..amazing how much time that stuff takes up!

We’ve had a fabulous Memorial Day so far. I usually don’t work on Mondays, so this should feel like any other Monday, but somehow it really seems like a holiday! We don’t have any big plans. I had a nice 6+ mile run; I was proud of myself for running in 70+ degree weather. I usually wilt in the heat and don’t run after the sun comes up, but I purposely slept in this morning and still ran. Go me! 🙂  After running, the girls and I (well, mostly I) made some no-bake peanut-butter chocolate bars and brought some to two sets of our wonderful neighbors, then hit the playground for some slide-and-swing action.

these are one of my favorite recipes ever – quick and delicious, sweet and salty, crunchy and smooth, all at once

We are lucky to have 3 playgrounds in walking distance – I don’t know how I’d survive my at-home days without them! Completely unintentionally, the high-school age kids of our neighbors accompanied us to the playground. it was nice to have some adult company, and the girls love their “grown-up” friends. They are a simply lovely and gracious family. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know them. It turns out that we have quite a few things in common: reading, music, dogs, art. I found out today that the dad has a blog about gardening, which is fitting because their garden is truly beautiful and amazing. We admire it every time we walk by their house, which is usually at least once a day. They have offered to help us set up a container garden, which I’m excited about. Neither my husband nor I have a green thumb, but I’d really like to spruce up our yard a bit. I am so excited to have guidance and help with the garden.

This past weekend we hosted a small birthday dinner for my mother-in-law. I made the vegan paella from The Voluptuous Vegan. It was fabulous. Of course, never having had ‘regular’ paella, I have nothing with which to compare it, but nevertheless, this is a delicious and impressive dish. Instead of mixing the rice, veggies, rosated cauliflower/chick peas and roasted tempeh all together, as per the recipe, I layered everything on top of the roasted tomato sauce, which made for a beautiful presentation. We ate it so fast that I did not get any pictures.

I thought this cake looked really pretty, and it was sooo good, too. I usually don’t like nuts in my food, but the sliced almonds added just the right amount of crunch and contrasted nicely with the smooth, sweet almond frosting.

I made a vanilla cake with strawberries and almond frosting for dessert. It was scrumptious. I haven’t had luck previously with making the standard vegan baking-soda-and-vinegar chocolate cake as a vanilla version, but I tried again and it worked this time. Normally it’s too moist/spongy/sweet/baking-soda-y, but this time I got the proportions right and it was moist without being gummy or spongy, and sweet without being cloying.

Lastly, this afternoon I treated myself to a cup of coffee at home, with a touch of vanilla extract, over ice, and topped with some leftover whipped coconut cream. (My husband had made the whipped coconut cream to go on the cake, and we had a tad leftover). It felt like a decadent coffee-shop style treat; I enjoyed it while reading on the couch while the girls napped. I just brewed one cup of coffee, added a drop of vanilla and a touch of sweetener and soy milk, ice, and then topped it with the whipped coconut cream. Delish.

We have a really old-school, environmentally-friendly coffee maker. It makes exactly one cup at a time, which is great for portion control but not great for serving guests or combatting excessive sleepiness due to toddlers and nervous greyhounds. Oh well.

our super-dooper fancy-schmancy coffee maker

I’ve got some homemade seitan and tofu marinating in a mustard-y and olive oil marinade, and will bake it in a bit for dinner tonight. I’m not sure what else we’ll have; maybe some sauted zucchini? Definitely no-bake peanut-butter chocolate bars for dessert, of course 😉

I will post the recipes for the peanut-butter chocolate bars, and the cake, soon.  I also need to be better about posting (in general) and recording runs (in specific); I’ve got to start the official marathon training soon!

Vegan Chocolate-Mint Cups and a Woo-Hoo for Extended Nursing

Okay, so there are about a million recipes for vegan peppermint-patty-type desserts, and they’re all basically variations on the same general theme. So, there is nothing earth-shattering here, but these ones are A. easy – SUPER EASY B. quick C. made with common pantry ingredients and D. delicious.

First, running round-up: I ended up hitting the snooze button a few too many times yesterday and thus slept through Wednesday’s run. Oh well. 3 miles Tuesday, 5 today. My bookclub is taking a weekend trip to one of the SC islands, so I’ll get a good beach run in there. I never, NEVER understood the appeal of beach running until I moved to SC. Up north, at least in my native Massachusetts, the beaches tend to be rocky and debris-filled, which is not exactly ideal for beachy runs. However, here in SC the beaches are nice and smooth, so I finally understand the appeal of running on them.

makes 10-12 large (muffin-size) cups

4 tablespoons vegan margarine

1 tablespoon coconut oil (you could probably use more margarine)

2 tablespoons vanilla-flavored light corn syrup, or brown rice syrup

about 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla, if you’re not using vanilla corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract (this is strong stuff, so use with caution! a little goes a looooong way)

approximately 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar

10-12 squares Trader Joe’s Pound Plus dark chocolate, melted (or use chocolate chips)

Line 10-12 muffin molds with muffin liners.

Cream together margarine, coconut oil, extracts, and salt. Add in brown rice syrup or corn syrup; cream together. Work in confectioners’ sugar. Melt chocolate; put a little in the bottom of each lined muffin mold, and move it gently up the side a little using a knife or spoon. Divide the filling into 12 balls; flatten gently, place on top of the chocolate, and pour more melted chocolate on to cover. Cool in the refrigerator.

I’ve been trying to come up with a good post about the whole Times breastfeeding cover controversy. I think I’ve been doubly invested in this particular debate, as both a nursing mom and a vegan. It just strikes me as very, very odd that people object to women feeding children from their own breasts, yet think it is a-okay to feed from the breasts of animals that are a completely different species from us, unable to consent to said feeding, and are animals the consumer will never, ever meet. To me, it is completely natural to nurse my child (or someone else’s who needs breastmilk); it seems completely unnatural to think of nursing from another animal, such as a cow. So, from a purely natural/evolutionary sort of perspective, I just don’t see why people get SO UPSET over breastfeeding moms.

Of course, a lot of it has to do with our society’s somewhat warped views on sexuality. I was in an airport once, nursing of my kids, and noticed a guy giving me some unpleasant looks (he never said anything to me). The magazines being sold at the airport’s Hudson News showed far more boob than I would ever show while nursing, yet people will criticize someone for nursing. It seems weird to me that we’re okay with all of the sex and breasts we see in the media, and even promote such images to our teenage kids, yet a breast being used for its intended use is somehow “gross” and “unnatural”. I heard a local radio station say, in response to the Times article, that past a certain age (before a year), the mom should just “pump and put it in a cup”. The announcers were acknowledging that breastmilk is best for babies and even toddlers, but thought it was (their word!) more ‘natural’ to pump rather than breastfeed! I nursed my first until almost a year and a half and am still nursing my second, and I really don’t see how nursing causes any sort of psychological damage. I think weaning abruptly and suddenly getting rid of the closeness of nursing would cause more damage than the nursing ever could.

Anyways….as a nursing, vegan mommy, I am proud of the woman in the Times story. In the rest of the world, kids routinely nurse to 3-5 years old.  The NYTimes published an article this week about how the US is the bottom of the developed nations for breastfeeding. Maybe stories like the ones in Times will help change this statistic.

Peanut Butter Coconut Chocolate Chip Vegan Bars

These are FANTASTIC. They are soft and chewy without being fluffy;  dense without being gummy; they have perfect combination of flavors and textures. YUM. They remind me of a vegan version of some of the treats Averie bakes up over at www.loveveggiesandyoga.com.

Running stats, before I forget: 6.5 miles yesterday, 11.5 today; all while listening to Dvorak, Brahms and Elgar. Not bad! I’ve signed up for a marathon in late October. I dread training during the hot southern summer, but it’ll just make me tougher, right? Right?

Second, I have to give my husband props for a wonderful mother’s day. He made a fabulous lunch: homemade seitan with a shallot-caper sauce, coconut-oil brussels sprouts, Indian spiced green beans, baked sweet potato, and then a plum crisp with homemade vegan soy ice cream. Holy yum. I had a very relaxing day. I started with the afore-mentioned 11.5 mile run; I honestly cannot think of a better start to a day than a good long run.

On to the recipe……makes 16 or so bars (one 8 x 8 panful)

Preheat oven to 350.

1/3 cup peanut butter, creamy (unless you like crunchy)

1/3 cup coconut oil, softened but not melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more if you are using unsalted peanut butter

1 cup brown sugar (this could probably be reduced)

3 tablespoons almond milk

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup vegan chocolate or other flavor chips (I used chocolate and white chocolate)

Cream together peanut butter and coconut oil. Add in salt, vanilla, sugar, and almond milk; mix until well combined. Add in other ingredients and stir until incorporated. Press into an 8 x 8 pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. If you don’t want them slightly gooey, leave them in longer, but they really are better all soft and gooey. Trust me on this one.

 

Oh my GOODNESS Vegan Cookie Bars

So. Freakin’. Good.

These were absolute perfection in vegan cookie bar form. Perfection, I tell you. I made them on Saturday; we had a babysitter coming that evening (we had to play for a wedding) and I didn’t want to leave her without some sort of tasty treat. That, and I was really feeling the need for some soft, gooey, dense, sweet, multi-flavor cookie bars.  I had in mind something like vegan Samoas cookies (the Girl Scout cookie; they were called Samoas back in my day, but they are probably called something else now) combined with one of my oldest and most beloved of vegan cookie recipes. My college roommate and I used to make these fabulous peanut butter chippy cookies – basically, they were peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips and butterscotch chips (we could get vegan butterscotch chips at Wegman’s) thrown in. They were delicious, but they were very crumbly and not quite the right texture. These bars are similar in terms of all of the flavors going on, but the texture is simply divine – soft, sllllightly chewy, and dense.

The babysitter ‘attacked’ them (her word), as did we. They were SO. GOOD. Recipe coming tomorrow. I am too tired and lazy to go find it and post it. Pitiful, I know. Pitiful.

I had a hard time coming up with a cute and appropriate name for these little puppies. I kept thinking of them as “nothin'” bars, as in “there’s nothin’ wrong with these bars!”. I’m not sold on it, though. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these delicacies, but I’m also not sure there’s any name out there that does these bars justice.

Peanut butter. Chocolate chips. Vegan white chocolate chips. Coconut. OH MY.

In other news, I used a crock pot for the first time yesterday! My husband’s had one for years and he uses it every now and then, but I never have used it; the thought of leaving something plugged in all day scares me. Yesterday I was at home with the girls so I made a crock pot Thai curry. I just threw in raw, chopped sweet potato, carrot, zucchini, and onion, and added some Massaman curry paste, coconut milk, oil, soy sauce, tamarind paste, and a touch of brown sugar. I added as much water as I would have used cooking this on the stove; that was a mistake. The curry was delicious but watery (none of the water boiled off, of course. Whoops!). I will definitely use the crock pot again. I think it generates less heat than using the stove does, and I am always looking for ways of reducing heat in the summer.

Strawberry Cupcakes and Veg Kids

A few weeks ago my super-southern mother-in-law made a strawberry cake. It was beautiful, but not vegan and, as it turns out, not even vegetarian. The ‘strawberry’-ness comes from……a box of strawberry Jello. Hmmmph. I decided I needed to try to make a vegan strawberry cake, and luckily, my husband was given several quarts of fresh strawberries that were leftover at a concert reception. We are fortunate to live 10 miles from a fabulous strawberry farm, so fresh strawberries are absolutely wonderful right now. My three-year old helped me make these. She put the liners in the cupcake pans, dumped flour, and helped stir. She is a sweet baking assistant!

I don’t know what the Jello strawberry cake tasted like, but this was delicious. It was not as beautiful as the food-coloring-saturated cake, but it was still pretty, and taste is way more important than looks, right? My daughter has not yet hit the ‘princess’ stage (and I really hope she never does), but these would be a great birthday cupcake for a princess-y party.

makes 12 cupcakes

about 2 cups fresh strawberries

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1.2 cup oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup soymilk

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups flour

extra strawberries for decorating, optional

Put strawberries, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl; using an immersion blender, blend until somewhat smooth. Some texture/chunks of strawberry is okay. Add in the other liquid ingredients and stir well; add in dry ingredients, except for baking powder, and stir gently. Fold in baking powder gently.

Pour into lined cupcake pans. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until top is dry. Frosting with vanilla frosting (I used Earth Balance, vanilla, a splash of soymilk, and confectioners’ sugar).

On to the subject of veg kids….

Last week I had an involved email conversation with an old friend from college, who was my inspriation to become vegan 17 years ago. (Side note: one of my great shames in life is that although I’ve been vegan for a long time and feel very passionately about it, I have never, to my knowledge, converted anyone to veganism. I’ve gotten a few people, including my husband, to be vegetarian, but not vegan. In contrast, I’ve been using cloth diapers with my kids for a little over 3 years, and I’ve convinced at least 5 people to use cloth diapers…..so why can’t I get anyone to become vegan? Argh! Anyways…..) We live multiple states away from each other, but we’re still close and have so much in common. We were discussing raising vegan kids, and the lack of resources for explaining veganism/vegetarianism to kids. There are a good number of cookbooks with kid-friendly vegan/vegetarian recipes, but not many books out there to help explain to kids why we don’t eat animals. The NYTimes reviewed a book last week on the subject but it was for older kids, not pre-schoolers. My three-year-old has been asking questions lately, and I would really like a book to read with her to help answer some of those questions. So far we’ve just been telling her that we don’t eat animals because we love them and eating them hurts them, but I know she will continue to ask questions. Also, we are raising both of our girls vegetarian as opposed to vegan (for several reasons, which I will cover in another post), although they both eat a vegan diet probably 98% of the time. My friend and I decided that there needed to be more resources about raising veg kids; I am planning to do a few blog posts about what has worked for us and what I would like to see happen. In the meantime,  two questions:

1. Are you raising a child vegan or vegetarian? What has helped you to make that decision? and

2. Are there any resources – books, videos, etc. that you have used with your child to explain the ethics of eating and that you would recommend, or not recommend, to others?

Old Favorites and Upcoming Recipes

Last week was craaazy busy. Grades were due, I had to drive all over the state for various court appearances and meetings, and I had some music commitments as well. It was all fun and rewarding, but goodness, am I tired! One of my meetings took me to Greenville, where I was able to stop off at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s – woo-hoo! I was pleased to see that I am not the only fan of the TJ’s soy chorizo; it was labelled as a new customer favorite. Good stuff.

I had a beautifully refreshing 6 mile run this morning. I signed up for a marathon in the fall, so I need to start thinking about mileage.

I’ve made a number of old favorites/basics lately; I’ve also tried some new recipes and have salvaged (or attempted to salvage)  some recipe disasters.

Here is one of the attempts at salvaging a disaster: making frosting-stuffed cookies with fudge that didn’t quite work:

On to the old favorites: first, chick pea and zucchini burgers

1 can of chick peas, drained

1 clove garlic

1/2 onion, finely minced (optional)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

salt, to taste

1 teaspoon dried oregano, optional

aobut 1 cup cooked rice

2 medium zucchini, shredded

1 tablespoon whole wheat flour, as needed

Puree or smoosh the chick peas, oil, garlic, and salt. It doesn’t need to be completed smooth.  Add other ingredients. Cook on a cast iron skillet that has been lightly oiled. Once you get the skillet hot, about 3-4 minutes per side should be sufficient.

We also had another old favorite, Trader Joe’s soy chorizo and kale

1/2 an onion, sliced

1/2 a container of TJ’s soy chorizo

1 bunch kale, torn into pieces

Saute onion; add soy chorizo and kale, and cook until kale is wilted.

Some upcoming posts:

Straight Up Vegan Pumpkin Bread/Muffins

Isa’s Spinach-Mushroom Strata from VWAV

Strawberry Cupcakes

Vegan Peanut Butter Cups

I think these peanut butter cups and I have made up and moved on in our relationship. At first I thought the chocolate was too bitter and the peanut butter did not offer a strong enough contrast. However, as I’ve tried them a few more times over the past week or so, I grudgingly admit that they’re pretty darn good as is, and that it must have been my wonky tastebuds that created the problem.

You can use whatever chocolate you like here, but I think dark is actually better (it’s rare for me to like dark chocolate, which is tough when you’re a vegan) because the peanut butter is pretty sweet.

 

As I said when I blogged about the Easter peanut butter eggs, vegan peanut butter cups can be as easy as melted chocolate + peanut butter. These are a little closer to Reese’s, though, and I like that the peanut butter holds up on its own and is not a gloopy mess when you bite into the cup, as plain peanut would be.

makes 12 mini cups

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus another tablespoon or so

a splash (1/4 teaspoon) of vanilla, optional

a dash (1/4 teaspoon) of salt, optional

8 squares of Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 72% chocolate, or other vegan dark chocolate, MORE if you like chocolate and want a nice, thick wall encasing the peanut butter

Cream together all ingredients other than the chocolate (duh!). Melt the chocolate. Line a mini-muffin pan with paper liners. Put some melted chocolate in the bottom of each cup and use a knife to gently smear it up the side. If you like a thicker chocolate wall, use more chocolate; if you like a thinner wall (like me), use less. Put a teaspoonr or two of the peanut butter mixture in each cup and cover with more chocolate. I formed little peanut butter balls and just plopped each one into the chocolate-lined cup.

As I was making these, my sweet husband came by and felt the need to comment that REAL candy makers use air pressure to push the chocolate from the bottom up the sides of the cup (he apparently learned this on one of those “how it’s made” shows, back when we had cable). He offered to try doing the same with a straw. I declined. Crazy guy. Crazy, crazy, crazy. Anyways, if you want an even, professional look, maybe blowing air on the melted chocolate through a straw will give you that. I don’t know. Let me know if you try it!

Balance

Today’s run: a few slow, easy miles with my favorite big black dog. He’s such a sweetie. I’m so proud of him for still being able to run at such an old age.

So, in my opinion, these peanut butter cups were too un-sweet. I used really dark chocolate because that’s what we had on hand. My husband loved them, but I haven’t had one since trying them several days ago.

These, on the other hand, are TOO sweet! I’ve been inspired by some of the recipes I’ve seen on www.loveveggiesandyoga.com to try to create a vegan bar/brownie that’s covered first with a layer of cookies or chips and then with a rich, sweet liquid and baked. I tried making these brownie/oreo/coconut milk bars, but they were just too rich. They’re good, and they certainly look yummy, but I have to tweak the recipe before posting it. That’s not stopping me from eating them, of course.

I have to admit, I was downright terrified when I poured the coconut milk mixture on top of the brownie dough. I had never made anything like this, and I just didn’t see how all that liquid would bake into something  – but it did! The mechanics of the recipe worked; I just need to reduce the sweetness a tad. It’s a good excuse to make more brownies, eh?

Too-sweet vs. not-sweet-enough – not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but definitely a balance that needs to be struck correctly when making dessert!

The concept of balance is something I’m constantly working on. As a lawyer, it is really hard for me to strike a work/life balance; in fact, from talking with other working parents, I’m not convinced that there is ever a perfect work/life balance. My job is so intense, as are my children, that I sort of feel like I am 100% committed to whatever I’m doing at the moment. When I’m practicing, I’m focused 100% on being a lawyer; when I’m at home, it’s 100% focus on the girls; when I’m playing the horn, I’m totally focused on the music I’m working ont; and when I’m teaching, I’m completely focused on my class. Maybe that’s just my personality, though. I tend to do things in a very focused, deliberate, intentional manner.  I tend to feel very strongly about a few certain issues, some of which are very specific (veganism, extended nursing, cloth diapers) and some of which are more general (the environment, animal rights, the rights and needs of the disadvantaged, socialism). If it’s not something I feel strongly about, I generally don’t have an opinion one way or another; I’ve always thought that this makes me laid-back, but maybe it just makes me laid-back in some contexts and super-intense in others 🙂 I wonder if focus and intensity, although both good qualities, can tend to lead to imbalance, as it can be hard to divert focus or difuse intensity.

Two areas in which I am always trying to strive towards more balance are exercise and eating. I have run several marathons and run most days of the week, but I’d like to find a middle ground between training for a marathon and running 3 miles every single day. A few years ago I was good at running 3-6 miles on a daily basis, but now it’s 3 miles or 10+ miles.

I also am always aware, in the back of my mind, of unbalanced eating. I’ve been a vegan forever (17 years) and I never have internal battles over whether I want to eat non-vegan food; being a vegan is so a part of my identity that I don’t really have a battle with it. I’m also lucky to have a fast-ish metabolism and slim-ish build, so fat/calories are not something I battle over either. What I have internal battles over is food choices: too much dessert, too much pasta, too much tofu, no fruit, too much of the same veggies over and over. (I LOVE veggies but I rarely eat fruit – terrible, I know!). Lately I’ve been devoting some mental energy to thinking about going raw for a day a week, or a few days a month. I wonder if eating a raw diet every now and then would force me to consume food more intentionally and pay more attention to what I put in my body. I think for many people, going vegan does that, but as I said, I’ve been vegan for so  long that it is completely second-nature to me – no thought required! I wonder if eating raw would be good for both my body and my mind.

Any thoughts? Does anyone out there have opinions on going raw, either completely or part-time, or any thoughts on how to achieve balance in a particular aspect of your life? Do you think there’s such a thing as work-life balance? Have you achieved it?

Cast Iron Okra, Vegan Jacksonville (or not) and Some Other Favorites

I made these vegan peanut butter cups the other night. I’m still working on the recipe so I will post about it soon, but suffice it to say, my husband ate three in one evening. Yikes.

I am soooo far behind on posting about running…that was supposed to be 1/2 of the blog. Oh well. I guess food is just more fun to write about, eh? Anyways, I’ve mostly just done short, 3-5 mile runs the past week. We were visiting family in Jacksonville this past weekend, and I didn’t want to take too much time away from them, so I stuck to shorter runs. Speaking of Jacksonville, it is a way cool city with lots to do and lots of kid-friendly stuff. We ate at a great Middle Eastern place called the Casbah; I’d recommend eating outside with kids because inside is a little bit hookah-bar-ish and not particularly kid friendly. It had all the standard vegan Middle Eastern fare; the falafel there is unlike any I’ve ever had. It is bright green (from the parsley?) and super garlicy. It is worth getting.

We also went to the Jacksonville River Art/Farmers Market, which is a seasonal outdoor market. It was fabulous! It is under a bridge, so it is outdoors but shady. In terms of prepared food, it was very meat-centric, but there was one booth that had a few vegan cupcake options. I had a peanut butter cupcake, which was pretty tasty, and something I’ve never tried making. It was a nice treat, and a surprise to find. I had searched online for vegan/vegetarian places before we went, and there were none at all that I could find. We managed to do okay, though, and had a great visit.

This morning I was welcomed by some cool (well, relatively speaking – 50 degrees) air; we’ve had a recent hot streak, so the colder, rainy weather today was a wonderful relief. I listened to more Brahms. I did have an exciting (well, to me) listening moment on my way to work. I was running late, so I was able to hear some classical music instead of solely Morning Edition (our NPR station switches to classical at 9 a.m……as I said, I was running late!). They played part of the 1st movement of the Mahler Resurrection symphony, which is one of my favorites. As I was listening to it, I started thinking about all the times I’ve run to that music, and started thinking about running in general, which lead me to thinking about what music to next download onto my IPod. I decided it would be nice to run to some of the Bach Brandenburg concertoes – and the very next thing they played, after a fundraising pitch, was Brandenburg 3! Weird, eh?

Anyways…A few days ago I picked up some okra. My oldest daughter, who is three, really likes okra. I try to ignore it as a vegetable, because I consider okra a very southern veggie, and I try hard to resist liking things that make me southern (yes, I’m still slightly bitter about living down here! That’s why they call us damn yankees). However, it’s hard not to provide a green veg to a 3-year old who is clamoring for it. Who can turn down a kid who is begging for more veggies? Not me! Anyways, I usually do a light pan-frying job on the okra, and I have to grudgingly admit that it’s pretty darn tasty. It’s hardly a recipe, but here it is:

about 2 cups sliced okra

about 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

salt or seasoning salt

about 1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the sliced okra in a bowl; cover with the flour and salt and stir until each piece is individually covered.

Heat up the oil in  a cast iron skillet (my favorite kind!). When the oil is hot, add the okra. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

I’m pretty proud of myself with respect to dinner tonight. My husband had made some fresh salsa, but that was about all we had around. I had a clingy one-year old who wanted to keep nursing, a whiny greyhound who wanted attention, and a talkative three-year-old who was hungry. Somehow, after a long day at work and many demands on my attention, I managed to make some tofu, pasta and spinach pesto. The best part of dinner, hands down, was that the one-year-old actually ate. The three-year-old is a fabulous eater, but the younger child is just not as interested in food (maybe because she’s still nursing….hmmmm). Today she ate salsa, tofu, and pasta with spinach pesto. Score.  My oldest was clamoring for tofu and broccoli. Sadly, we did not have any broccoli, but I did make the girls some of my famous quick cast iron tofu. I’ve blogged about it before several times but I cannot figure out how to link back to my own posts. So here’s the recipe, with an old picture:

cube a pound of firm tofu – press it if you have time but don’t worry about it if you don’t

oil, about a tablespoon

soy sauce, about 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons

nutritional yeast, about a tablespoon

optional: garlic, hot sauce

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet. Throw in tofu and cook for a minute or two. Add soy sauce and nutritional yeast; stir to coat. You can east this right away, but I prefer to let it cook for 10-15 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed and the edges get all brown and crispy. If you press the tofu first, you can cook it less and get the same result.

Tonight I also made one of my favorites, spinach pesto (again, NO idea how to link back….). This time I used raw sunflower seeds, which was new. It was delish. Once again, I cannot figure out how to link back to my previous posts about it, so here’s a basic recipe and a picture of the pesto on pasta that I packed for the girls’ lunch tomorrow.

1/4-1/2 cup raw nuts – almonds, cashews, even sunflower seeds, or a combination thereof; today I used half raw almonds and half raw sunflower seeds

1 bag (6 oz.) baby spinach

1-2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

2-4 tablespoons oil

Put all ingredients in blender and blend, or put ’em in a bowl and use your trusty ol’ immersion blender. The more nuts and oil you use, the richer and creamier it is (duh). This is a fast, fast recipe – it comes together while the pasta is cooking. It is healthy and raw, and everyone to whom I’ve served it loves it, including kids.

I’m working on a few recipes right now: Vegan Peanut Butter Cups, Vegan Oreo-Stuffed Brownies, and Granola/Breakfast Bars. Wheeee!