Sunday Running Round-up (on a Monday) and Authentic Mumbai Vegan Recipes

Garnishes for the Indian dishes – so pretty! (and yummy)

Wow. I knew I hadn’t posted in a while, but I did not realize it had been 2 weeks! We were on vacation with my in-laws for more than half of that time, so I couldn’t blog then, but really I should have blogged as soon as I got back on Saturday. It’s not like I spent the time unpacking or anything….

As with most of the rest of the nation, it has been brutally hot here in the south. We reached temperatures above 100. This Northern girl does not tolerate heat well. I always feel like I will actually perish one of these days. Seriously, 100 degrees??? Crazy.  It was slightly cooler in the mountains, and I managed to get some good runs in.

Last Saturday: 5 miles, with a new runing buddy (a woman from my book club)

Sunday: 3 miles; Monday: 4-5 miles; Tuesday: 3 miles; Wednesday, 3 ish miles; Thursday: 14+ miles (hilly and hot – go me!); Friday: 3 miles; Saturday: 3 miles. Sunday: no run.

I need to do about 15-16 miles this weekend. We’ll see how that goes. If it doesn’t cool down I will just expect to have a miserably slow and hot run.

My Ipod died a few weeks ago, so with the exception of the 14-miler, I’ve been running sans-Ipod. (I borrowed my husband’s Ipod for my long run). I kind of like running sans-Ipod. It makes me think more and concentrate more on running and thinking through things I need to think through. I probably will be replacing the Ipod, though, just for convenience.

Before leaving for the mountains, I hosted our monthly book club meeting. The book club I am in is truly a beautiful thing. It is a group of about 10 women (we’ve had some leave and some come over the years) who all love thinking, reading, sharing, and being together. Particularly in a rural, unprogressive, largely un-educated area, it is a godsend to have a group of intelligent women with whom to discuss books. I am very grateful for my group. We read a mix of fiction and non-fiction; generally, the host picks the book. I picked “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo; it is a narrative, journalistic account of the lives of several people who live in a slum in Mumbai. The author is a reporter and basically lived in the slums for a few years, following several individuals and getting to know them, their lives, their families, and their stories. It is an amazing, breath-taking, beautiful book. It is also a quick, engaging read. I highly, highly recommend it. It is a very honest account and does not try to glorify the situation, or make it look like the people in the book are desparate to get out and be ‘saved’ from their situation – it is really a complete, developed society. Great book, if you are looking for something to read.

Anyways…normally, we just have desserts/snacks for bookgroup, but I decided to make some authentic Indian food, since the book was about India and I just happen to have a good friend who is Indian, a great cook, and a fellow blogger. I made two of her recipes: Peas Ragda, and Pav Bhaji. I also made chai-spiced cookies. The food was a huge hit! I especially liked the Pav Phaji. My friend Geeta blogged about this recipe on her own blog; it is apparently a common street carat food in Mumbia. I would eat it all the time, if given the chance!

The topping for Pav Bhaji it is served on bread and garnished with onions and cilantro

Pav Bhaji

Geeta’s post about Pav Bhaji is found here: http://foodiemomscookbook.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-06-15T20:52:00-04:00&max-results=1    She also takes beautiful photographs – much better than mine, but I will include a few of my own just for fun.

peas Ragda

The peas ragda is a dish made with spiced potato patties, covered in split pea sauce (I used red lentils for the sauce because that’s what I had on hand), and then garnished with onions and cilantro. It was so good. My girls liked both dishes, as did my mother-in-law, who enjoyed some leftovers. This are great recipes for kids, company, yourself!

The split pea (red lentil, in my case) sauce that is served over the potato patties

The potato patties used in peas Ragda

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?

Intentional Listening and Vegan Cupcakes

I had a lovely run this morning. It was still cool (….relatively speaking) when I went, and I got a good 6 miles in, which is really not bad on a busy weekend. A friend of mine who is a professional musician is playing the J.S. Bach St. Matthew Passion in a series of concerts. She’s been posting about the piece a lot on facebook, which has in turn sparked a discussion of it between me and my musician husband. He downloaded his favorite recording (yes, he has several….) of the St. Matthew Passion on my Ipod; I listed to the first hour of it this morning. This morning’s run and music, in combination with a moving passion service at church this morning and today being the anniversary of the tragic death of our good friends’ daughter, got me to thinking more about how I live my life on a day-to-day basis. More often than not, my life is completely hectic and busy busy busy: between working as a lawyer and a professor and a part-time (very) musician and a full-time mom, it is hard to slow down enough to really think and breathe and just be. I think a lot about every-decisions a lot: what to eat (not just vegan, but where the food came from, whether it is healthy, what are the environmental imapcts of the food, etc.), where to buy things (I will not shop at Wal-Mart. Period.), what products to use, etc., but I rarely just stop and think about being and existing and relating to other people. Music is one way that helps me do that, but more often than not I listen to music because I like it. Listening to the Bach this morning reminded me that there is value in slowing down (mentally/emotionally), really listening, and learning a new piece of music. It is always hard for me to learn music that I have not played; my mind and ear just naturally tend to be more interested in music I’ve performed, even if it was years ago. It is much more of a mental and emotional challenge for me to learn music just by listening, yet it is so rewarding to do so – and sometimes I think it forces me to listen even more.

So, this week, a goal of mine is to listen (both to music and words) more intentionally, and to try to understand the meaning of what I hear in a larger context in terms of people and thoughts. We’ll see if I can do it….I’m not always the most thoughtful of people. Slowing down and thinking will be good for me. Plus listening to Bach is always a treat.

On a much lighter note, the cookies and cupcakes and salsa and hummus we made for coffee hour today were all a huge hit. Those folks went through 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies, 3 dozen strawberry-almond bars, and (timpani roll please) 6 dozen mini cupcakes, plus a back-up sheet cake that I made only as a way to use up extra cake batter! As a friend of mine said, “these people are vultures!”. I did not advertise it as all vegan, so as not to turn people away, but when people commented on how good everything I tried to tell them it was vegan.

I was particularly pleased with how the cupcakes turned out. I used two standard vegan cake recipes and standard vegan buttercream, but they came out really cute because of the squiggly frosting. I used an old-fashioned frosting bag (or whatever they’re called) because someone (ahem) broke my fancy-schmancy pampered chef frosting dispenser. Oh well….

Anyways, I took oodles of pictures, and will post some soon. YUM.

Slackness, Show Tunes, and Cinnamon-Roll bread

Yikes. It’s been a few days, eh? I really meant to be better about this blogging thing. The whole intent was for me to write down recipes so that I can replicate stuff we like, with a secondary intent of showing folks how easy veganism can be (i.e. you don’t need to buy all those fancy, pricey faux-meat and fauz-dairy products, nor do you have to have all sorts of wierd and unusual ingredients to make vegan food). So really, I should be blogging every day or every other day to accomplish these goals. Oh well. It’s been a rough week, mentally, for me, but things are picking up. In addition to my running goal, I’m going to challenge myself to blog 5 out of 7 days this coming week, starting Monday.

Business first: Running. Eh, almost non-existent….I haven’t done more than a few 3-mile runs this week. Today I ran pushing the girls in the stroller, which always seems like it should count extra. I will run long tomorrow, but not likely long enough to meet the 25-mile goal. Oh well. Life happens. This week, I’m going to shoot for 4 out of 5 week days, at least two of those being 4 or more miles, and then one at-least-10 miler on the weekend. Oh, and weights and crunches, again. We’ll see.

Today I had the opportunity to spend most of the day playing music. It is a nice break from my normal life of lawyer-professor-mommy. I sub in with a sort-of-local brass quintet; they call me when they need me. They had a wedding gig this weekend and needed an extra horn player. It was a lovely ceremony at a woman’s house; we then played the reception in her backyard, right on the lake. We did not play any truly extraordinary music, or even any music that was challenging to the listener at all, because this was not an arts-type venue; we were there for entertainment. It was kind of nice to just let my mind go and just play, without having to engage in huge amounts of intense thought and concentration. The guys I play with are all good musicians, at least in terms of technique, so we end up sight-reading half the music we play at such gigs. That always keeps me on my toes; it keeps my mind awake, and lets me think only about the notes on the page as they go by. It’s a different sort of playing than one does when working up a big, serious work. One of the nice things about the reception today was the reaction we got from some little old ladies (they really were) who were sitting near us. We played something from some musical, and they just loved it, so then we started playing a bunch of showtunes. At the end of every one the little old ladies hooted and clapped; one in particular kept telling the trumpet nearest to her how much she loved it. It was nice to bring some joy and brightness to someone’s life, unexpectedly. I usually get bogged down in heavy, intellectually-and emotionally-challenging music; I love it, and it provides a certain service for my mind and soul, but every now and then it’s nice to see (and participate in) the fun side of music. We did that today, and it was truly enjoyable.

Onto a recipe…..I made this the other day. We’ve been eating it for breakfast. I love making bread. It is a very sensory experience, and somehow earthy and natural as well. It is also surprisingly easy. I’ve run into a lot of people who are completely intimidated by the idea of making yeast breads. It is SO easy one you learn the basics. Homemade bread is delicious, and cheaper than what you can buy at the store. I usually just make a standard half-whole wheat, half-white loaf, but when I have the time and mental energy, I get creative and make bread with herbs, or other seasonings, or shape it free-form instead of using a pan; then, when baked at a high heat, it gets nice and crusty.

I digree, however. If you’ve made bread, this is an easy recipe. If you haven’t, this will teach you the basics and give you a nice, cinnamony treat.

1 package active dry yeast, or 1 tablespoon

1 tablespoon white sugar

2 cups warm, not hot, water

salt, 1-2 teaspoons

4-6 cups flour; I use half whole-wheat, half white, but you can use all white (all whole wheat is hard to pull off, at least without a whole lot more sugar and oil)

1 tablespoon oil

for the filling:

2-ish tablespoons Earth Balance, or other vegan margarine

2-4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

Method:

Put yeast, sugar, and warm water in a big bowl. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast proofs – this means the mixture gets all bubbly; little bubbles will rise to the surface, and there will be a tan foamy substance on top of the water. It’s a fun process to watch, if you have time. After the yeast has proofed, add about 3-4 cups of flour, the oil, and the salt. Stir. Add more flour until you can’t stir any more. Scrape the spoon and bowl, flour your hands, and starting kneadin’ that dough! I like to knead it directly in the bowl. Add more flour as you knead, as necessary. Any time the dough starts sticking to you, add more flour. Usually, 5-6 cups will do it, but it depends on the humidity, the kind of flour you use, etc. You want the dough to be soft to the touch, but not sticky. So, when you have nice mass of dough, to test it for doneness, just poke it with your finger; if the dough attaches itself to your finger, keep going!

Once the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with a towel that has been dampened with warm water. Place it somewhere warm and let it rise. Usually, an hour or so is enough for the first rising; you want it about double the original size. Punch the dough down. If you were making regular bread, this is when you’d put it into bread pans. However, we’re making cinnamon roll bread! so there’s an extra step…

Divide the dough into two. On a floured surface, spread out one of the sections of dough. You don’t need to use a rolling pin; just use your hands/fingers to smush the dough into a rectangle that is about 6 inches by about 12 inches, approximately. Smear the dough with 1 tablespoon Earth Balance and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar. Roll, starting at one of the 6-inch sides. Gentle pinch the ends together.  Put the rolled dough into a greased loaf pan. Gently pinch the end of the roll. You don’t need to completely attach it, though. Do the same with the second piece of dough. Let the dough sit, covered with the wet towel, for about 1/2 hours to rise again. Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes, or until golden on the top.

A Northern-Elitist-Snob Rant and Indian-spiced Tofu Scramble

Today’s run:  a mundane 3-miles, final movement of Mahler 7. Eh.

It’s been sort of a rough week. My job as it now exists is on shaky grounds, simply because we are losing one of the gov’t contracts that I work on. My firm is keeping me on but I am worried that there will not be enough work for me to do. This might end up being a blessing in disguise, as I have been wanting to move to 100% criminal defense work for a while now, and I have also been looking for a job closer to home (I drive a really, really long way to get to work. I have a very fuel efficient car, and my firm is very flexible with me, so it’s not all bad, but it’s still a really, really long drive). I’ve put in a few calls to some firms closer to home who might be looking for a part-time defense attorney. We’ll see what happens.

Then, there’s the whole general-discontent-with-life funk that visits me every few months. Although I try really hard not to actively complain about living in the south, and try to make the most of it, I really would rather be back up north. Day to day, my life is pretty okay here. However, I just don’t want to live here long-term. I think it’s really more of a rural-urban thing than a north-south thing; I might feel less downtrodden and discouraged if I lived in a southern city as opposed to the country. Regardless, it seems that we are here for at least the time being. We have been trying to move back up north, but it’s not something we can do without jobs, and jobs are pretty darn hard to come by these days.

At times like these I wish I had a better attitude about living in the south. At times I’m pretty disparaging about southerners. There are some very nice things about southern culture – people ARE friendly, and they are family-oriented – but it’s not the culture in which I grew up, so it’s hard to see those good things as being ‘valuable’ enough to me to outweigh what I see as the negatives of the south. We do not live in an area that seems to value intellectual challenge/rigor/curiousity, or artistic/cultural endeavors, or invites the critical examination of viewpoints other than one’s own. It is just a very closed-in, limited area. Many of the people here have never – NEVER – travelled outside of the county, let alone the state. That has been a hard adjustment for me. It’s hard to find friends here, because I don’t have much in common with most of the people I run into. Yes, I could probably learn some lessons in how to be more laid-back and go-with-the-flow from the people I meet, but again, it’s just too hard for me to aspire to that, because it’s just not what I’m used to. One thing I’m scared of is how accustomed I’m becoming to things/statements/attitudes that should shock and appall me. I’m worried that although I am able to ‘know better’ and be discerning about such things, my girls will grow up amongst such attitudes and will have a harder time seeing them as something not to be desired. I don’t want to be the stereotypical northern elitist snob, but it is just HARD living somewhere that you just don’t really feel comfortable in. I know, I have it so much better than so many other people, and I really should not complain. That’s why, as I stated in the beginning of this, I try hard NOT to complain. Every few months, though, I get in this dire “we’re stuck here for the rest of our lives” rut, and get all sad about not being in the north (or at least in an urban area…). I admit that this definitely became a lot harder once we had kids. Like I said, I can ignore/filter out/respond constructively and appropriately to the racist/homophobic/religious/anti-intellect/generally judgmental comments I hear, but I truly fear for my children. They will either become complacent, or will be picked on as the obnoxious, outspoken, hippie-commie-wierdo-kids. Sigh. (And yes, I have been called all of those things and more.) All I can do for now is hope and hope that we will someday soon be able to find our way back up north.

On to less depressing and more uplifting things…..I have some really exciting bread in the oven – cinnamon-roll bread! I am totally thrilled about it. I will blog about it tomorrow. I meant to take pictures of it before putting it in the oven but I can’t find our camera (I am choosing to blame the kids for this, rather than my poor house-keeping skills 🙂 )

I made this tofu scramble the other night for dinner. It’s good for breakfast or dinner, actually. I know every vegan cook on the planet makes tofu scramble, so there’s really nothing novel here, but it’s a decent recipe.

1 tablespoon oil (I never actually measure it; I just pour it in the cast iron skillet.)

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, or 1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 zucchini, finely chopped

1 pound fresh firm tofu, water squeezed out and crumbled

salt to taste

Saute the onion in the oil. When it is soft, add the spices and cook for a few minutes. Add the zucchini and cook until it is lightly browned. Add the crumbled tofu and cook until warmed through.

You can add spinach instead of zucchini; you can add garlic, nutritional yeast, whatever you like. It is a very basic and forgiving recipe.

I DID take pictures, but again, the lost camera….sigh.

A day at home and some Bach

No recipes today. I’ve been slightly obsessed with making tortillas and filling them with pureed black beans and veggies (my husband has nicknamed these ‘bean-a-dillas’ – ha). They’re not very exciting, plus I think I already posted the tortilla recipe.

Today’s run: 3 + miles, pushing the double stroller – that counts as double mileage, right? 😉 Really, I don’t mind running with the girls in the stroller. I always dread it, but then after the first few minutes it’s not so bad. I usually don’t have to run with them because I get out early enough in the morning that they’re either still asleep or eating breakfast with dad. Today, however, I went on a much-needed cleaning spree and ended up with a later run, necessitating taking the girls. We ran to the library, and then enjoyed story time and an impromptu playdate with some friends who also showed up for story time.

I spend a good bit of time grumbling about where I live (‘everything is so far away! it’s so rural! there are chickens a block away from us! we’re surrounded by rednecks! whole foods is an hour away! these accents are driving me crazy – I have no idea what people are saying to me!’ etc. etc.), but I do have to admit that the town we live in does have some decent attributes. We can walk to the library and the coffee shop (conveniently located a block apart); we can walk to a few restaurants (none of which have much we can eat, but still….); we can walk to the town square, which has some cute shops; we can walk to several playgrounds;  we can take a longer walk and get to the grocery store and post office. So it’s not all bad, and I really need to remember that. Sure, there are some things that could be better – we feel very isolated sometimes, in terms of making friends and meeting people who share our interests – and it is a totally different culture from that which I grew up in, but really, day-t0-day, we have it pretty good. There’s not much traffic 😉 and although I have a looooong drive to work, I at least have a good job, as does my husband. Our girls have made friends with some of our neighbors, and there’s plenty of animals around for them to see.

Still, though, it’s hard to balance the day-to-day with our long-term goals. I look at the area in which we live and worry about what sort of environment our girls will be growing up in and what sort of values they will be exposed to at school. Parenting is so tough, and it’s so hard to know what is best for your kid – and in today’s economy, it’s not as if you can just up and move to create a better opportunity for your kids. We can’t just move back to the northeast without jobs, as much as we’d like to. So I guess I just need to work hard at teaching my kids what we think is important, and helping them develop into kind, compassionate, intellectual, curious, understanding, hard-working, ambitious people. Really, we’d face parenting challenges wherever we lived; in more urban, educated/liberal areas, there is SO much pressure for kids to get into the right school, do all the right activities, get into an Ivy League school, etc. etc. Having grown up in such an environment, I know there are problems with those values, too. Parenting is just so tough sometimes. Sigh….

On a brighter note, husband and I played together in a concert tonight, which has become a rare occurrence for us. We played in a performance of a Bach cantata, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. I used to play all the time; music has been a huge part of my life since about 3rd grade. In recent years, as I’ve shifted my professional life to law, I’ve been more of  a listener and less of an active performer. I still always played, but just in our living room. I try to play a few concerts a year; as a brass player, I’m in the back of the orchestra, so it’s not like I am responsible for big solo parts. I love listening to music, but I also really love playing it and being part of producing it. Tonight was a good reminder of that.

Questions, just because I’m curious:

1. What do you like about where you live? What would you change? I like being within walking distance of stuff. I don’t like being an hour away from a mid-size city, and I don’t like the mostly closed-minded attitude of so many people around us.

2. Is there anything you used to do – a hobby or interest – that you’ve had to give up or scale back on? Do you have plans to incorporate it back into your life sometime? I would love to do more music, but I don’t see doing more than teaching private lessons to a few students and playing a few concerts a year for quite some time – until I’m no longer a practicing lawyer, probably.

A lovely cool weather run

Today’s run: just under 7 miles (as in, 0.07 miles under). Had I plotted the course on gmap-pedometer prior to running, I would have made it an even 7 or, more likely, just over 7. I like rounding my runs to the nearest half-number, but almost always rounding down instead of up; I also like to run longer than I credit myself for. There’s no real reason for this; it’s just how I do it.

Anyways, today’s run was really quite delightful. I ran in the mid-morning instead of first thing before the kids got up; this was a real treat. I also ran a completely new route, listening to music that I hadn’t listened to in a long time (Elgar’s Enigma variations). It was below freezing when I woke up, but probably in the low 40s when I ran. I prefer cold temperatures for running. Here, 30s and 40s qualifies as ‘cold’. In my native New England, such would be warm, but alas, I’m trying to adjust.

Today’s food: breakfast was a bagel from yesterday’s batch. Lunch was leftover chili from yesterday (pictures soon!) and some pasta. Dinner was a really simple stirfry (lots of veggies, sesame-shitake salad dressing mixed with cornstarch as the sauce) and my husband’s version of paradise casserole from The Candle Cafe cookbook. The Candle Cafe is a fabulous, fabulous vegan restaurant in NYC. We first went with my uncle and his then-partner, now-husband (hooray!) in the late 1990s. We’ve only been a few times since then, but it remains a favorite restaurant for both of us. I highly recommend the cookbook. The recipes are fancy but easy enough to do at home, and the pictures are great. I also had some leftover cake from yesterday.

I am hoping to make this blog more about how to be a simple, non-trendy vegan in a largely non-vegan world, than about my daily runs and eats. However, I am going to try to track my runs here just out of convenience. I’ve done a few marathons and half-marathons, the last of which was the Atlanta half when I was pregnant with daughter #2. I’m working back up to a marathon (the Marine Corps/DC one, I hope) and having accountability on my daily runs will help towards that, I think.

I’m not a calorie-counter or super-strict about food, so I don’t really expect to treat this as a food log. I became a vegan back in 1995, after being a vegetarian for a year; my reasons for becoming a vegan were ethical and environmental, and those remain my reasons for veganism today. I’m sure I enjoy some health benefits from being vegan, but really those are incidental and secondary – I’m a vegan because I love animals and can’t stand the thought of them being mistreated.

That being said, I live in an area in which it is really hard to be vegan. It’s easy for me because I’ve done it for so  long and I like to cook (as opposed to eating out), but it would be really, really hard to find the support to start a vegan lifestyle here. I’m in the rural, rural south. No-one has even heard the word vegan here, and in the 6 years I’ve been here, I have not met a single other vegan. I’ve met a few (2, I think) vegetarians. I rarely go to restaurants, partially because of the expense but mainly because of the inconvenience of having to explain what I can and can’t eat, dealing with the bewildered stares of waitstaff, and then not really being certain that what I receive is actually vegan. I do think it’s important to eat out as a vegan in the rural south, because it is only through people asking for vegan options that vegan options will become readily available. It’s just hard to be the guinea pig 🙂

I’m a simple, but good, cook. I love to cook and create and read cookbooks for ideas; I rarely follow a recipe exactly. My cooking has always relied on ingredients that are easy to come by. Back when I became a vegan, even in the enlightened town of Ithaca, NY, where I then lived, grocery stores did not carry staples such as refrigerated soymilk – you could only get the kind on the shelf. Earth Balance did not yet exist, nor did the majority of the meat analogs that are on the market today. Ithaca did carry a wonderful, locally-made seasoned tofu called tofukan…..it was delicious, and the closest to a meat analog that was available. Of course, where I am now has very limited options in terms of prepared vegan food. So, I learned to cook vegan food using basic, simple, whole, unprocessed ingredients, and I continue to cook that way today.

Veganism is becoming somewhat trendy, which is great for the animals and enviroment, but also means that many of the vegan blogs and cookbooks rely on vegan versions of non-vegan items. Sure, I enjoy the occasional tub of Tofutti sour cream, but I do not rely at all on vegan analogs of any kind, except for soy milk and soy margarine. This is primarily due to availability and price – those items are just so expensive, and in my area, very hard to come by.

So the recipes I’ll be posting to this blog are easy to make, tasty, and use easy to find ingredients. I am a mostly-healthy cook, but I enjoy my fair share of desserts, so some recipes will be vegan but definitely not ‘healthy’.

I’m looking forward to finally having a place to write down all the recipes I create. All too often my husband will say ‘why don’t you make X again’ and I can’t remember how I made it. I hope this blog helps remedy this problem, and gives others guidance in how to live a simple, old-school vegan lifestyle.