Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What We Eat: September 6-11

September 6, 2010

I’d love to start using more recipes…I have a huge library of cookbooks, but my rebellious nature leads me to ignore them often and make things up as I go.  My creativity has run short, though, and those books should get some use!  Here is our menu for this week, incorporating some more ambitious recipes than last week, as well as some homemade basics.

September 6

Lunch: @ the Minnesota Renaissance Festival (we may starve!  we’ll see)

Dinner: Smorgasbord (lots of leftovers from last week!  probably dinner salad)

September 7

Lunch: Vegetable Stir Fry over Soba Noodles

Dinner: Green Bean and Artichoke Bake (from 1000 Vegan Recipes)

-also making vegan parmesan from 1000 Vegan Recipes p.193

September 8

Lunch: Coconut Jasmine Rice with Edamame (1000 Vegan Recipes p.273)

Dinner: Raw Chili (own recipe) with Kale Chips (own) and Cornbread (Veganomicon p.113)

September 9

Lunch: Chickpea Cutlets (Veganomicon) and steamed vegetables

Dinner: Miso Soup and leftover cornbread

-also making rhubarb coffee cake (own recipe)

September 10

Lunch: Raw zucchini noodles and fresh tomato sauce (sauce 1000 Vegan Recipes p. 548)

Dinner: Lentil Walnut Pasties (1000 Vegan Recipes p.136) with Apple-Pear Chutney (p. 563) and oven roasted potatoes

September 11

Lunch: @ Chapati in Northfield, MN

Dinner: Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (1000 Vegan recipes p.216)


A Sample Menu Page

September 6, 2010

This week I started a new notebook for menu-planning.  I have a one page summary which I post on the refrigerator, but then put in-depth plans for each day in the notebook (this is a trick I picked up from working in a commercial kitchen…it’s tremendously helpful).  In the in-depth page I can make notes of which page and cookbook recipes can be found, to-do notes for things I need to make ahead, and reminders of appointments and other things that might interfere with meal times.  When I am finished with the menu I draw up a master grocery list for the week–this helps avoid my frequent problem of buying one pepper when I need three, or forgetting something at the farmer’s market and having to wait until the next week.

I’ll post the in-depth entry for one day this week to give you an idea of what my notebook looks like:

September 7


  • Lunch: Stir Fry
  • Dinner: Green Bean Hotdish


Vegetable Stir Fry over Soba Noodles

-sauce using lime juice and tamari, fresh chopped cilantro garnish

-julienne carrots, green onions, green bell pepper, peas, tofu, broccoli, water chestnuts, spinach


Green Bean and Artichoke Bake

-use recipe from 1000 Vegan Recipes

-topping using Parmiaso, p.193 of 1000 Vegan Recipes

To Do

Bake cornbread for tomorrow (Joy of Vegan Baking recipe)

Bake apples from orchard (apple chips?)

Also Today

First day of school

Schedule dentist appointment

Menu Planning

September 6, 2010

Being a very on-the-fly type girl, I have long scoffed at menu-planners.  I, like many women, have cravings for certain foods sometimes, and if I feel like having spaghetti and stir fry is on the menu I am not a happy camper.  I also hate the feeling of having an elaborate meal planned, only to find I’ve barely time to make a bowl of cereal much less a spinach-leek risotto.  Planning ahead, it seemed, was not for me.

Well, menu-planners, the time has come for me to apologize.  In an effort to cut down on my exorbitant grocery bills I finally decided to sit down and try a menu, just for part of a week.  It worked beautifully and I am now trying it a second week.  It’s so fun, in fact, that I had to control the temptation to plan out my whole month.

Since it was just a trial menu, I took the first one easy, and thus a little junkier than usual.  Here’s what I came up with:


Smorgasbord (we had leftovers from our weekend trip, and were not all home at the same time to eat)


Lunch: Asian Noodle Bowl with Tofu

Dinner: Lentil Soup with Wild Rice Dinner Rolls


Lunch: Sandwich bar, chips, and fresh fruit

Dinner: Pasta Bake


Lunch: Boca chik’n nuggets, sauteed broccoli, baked beans

Dinner: Chef salad and leftover dinner rolls from Wednesday (rotini for the little one, since she’s not yet a lettuce muncher)


Lunch: Sloppy Joes, steamed carrots, leftover dinner salad

Dinner: Homemade Vegetable Pizza (at last minute this ended up being take-out, because we had a friend stop over)


I posted this menu on the fridge along with short lists of dessert, snack, and breakfast suggestions.  Breakfast is usually a free-for-all in our house (since one day my daughter decides to eat two bananas, a glass of orange juice and a waffle, the next she just wants yogurt), but I did end up making Peanut Butter Banana Stuffed French Toast one day (from the book 1000 Vegan Recipes… and it was incredible).  We stuck to the menu very well and found that we ate less.  I found it very helpful to have a list of set snack options staring me in the face every time I entered the kitchen…it kept me from scarfing ice cream before dinner or having a dinner roll as a “snack”.  I was able to ration ingredients better when I knew I would use them again later in the week, instead of using a whole can of olives on one meal and having to return to the grocery store again and again.  And amazingly, when I knew what meal was coming up, it cut down on cravings.  There wasn’t a single time this week when I felt like making something other than what was on the menu.

Overall I think I saved about $90 on groceries this week.  I haven’t kept track before so it’s hard to say, but I think food spending is typically about $200 a week.  This week I spent $110, which is for three people.  Not horrible, but I do plan to try and get it below $100.  We spent an extra $25 on chips and salsa and some beer when our friend stopped over.

In case this information helps anyone else trying to eat vegan on a budget, I will try to start posting our weekly meal plans, along with the resulting grocery bill.  If you’re reading this and want to check on our other menu plans, see the “What We Eat” tag.

1000 Vegan Recipes: Cherry Hazelnut Scones

March 9, 2010

This evening I made Cherry Hazelnut Scones, meaning I’ve now done about 12 of the 1000 recipes in the book.  These scones are awesome.  I’m not typically one for scones unless they are un-sconelike (you know, the ones with chocolate in them), but cherries and hazelnuts make for a pretty tasty combination.

All I changed about the recipe was adding a tablespoon more soymilk than required (the dough seemed too dry to hold together), and using evaporated cane juice in place of regular sugar.  Otherwise, everything in the recipe worked as it should, and it produced great results!

Schools are only one piece of the puzzle

February 19, 2010

Media coverage regarding the school lunch program has increased recently both on the local level and even nationally.  Everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter.  As a parent, as a vegan, as a cook, and as a school food service worker, this issue is close to my heart and one about which I feel I am knowledgeable enough to share my thoughts.

Before forming opinions about school lunch I must encourage everyone to set aside the negative stereotype of the fat, greasy, grouchy lunch lady plopping unidentifiable scoops of mush onto kids’ trays.  School lunch has come a long way since my parents were in school, and even since I was in high school.  The basic framework is still there, but the food has changed, the methods of cooking have changed, and the ways of serving the food have changed.  We don’t have fryers anymore.  We don’t serve pots of slop.  We don’t steam our vegetables beyond recognition.  That is not to say we’re perfect–we certainly still have a ways to go.  School nutrition directors are constantly looking for new ways to arrange the budget in order to provide better options for the children, who are always the first priority.  We truly do the best we can with the limited funds we are given.

But we have a lot to deal with, more than most parents consider.  Some school cafeterias are run by management companies, who try to make profit for themselves and for the school by lowering costs as much as possible.  Many others are run by the districts themselves.  Some districts are supportive, some are not; some have the money to offer a lot of choices and even organic foods, most do not.  We have to please the school board, the students, the parents, the accountant, the USDA, the health department.  Sometimes these groups have conflicting views.  We have to offer lunch at a low cost and provide it at reduced cost or free to students who qualify.  We have to provide it on time every day, we have to keep participation in the program high enough to keep the budget balanced, we have to plan months and even years ahead.  Some schools have to deal with limited availability–we cannot get certain foods in our district, for example, because the nearest distributor is too far away to deliver to us.  Keep these things in mind when thinking about the lunch program–it’s not just a matter of making your child’s favorite food every day.  Our days are far more complicated than most parents assume.

Also consider that students do not walk through our doors as clean slates.  By the time we meet them, they have already formed likes and dislikes, favorites, and ideas about what is “normal” to eat, what is “good” to eat, and what is “cool” to eat.  It is not entirely our responsibility to make your children like peas and apples.  If they think pizza and french fries are okay to eat daily, that is what they’re going to want.  If your children see you passing up the vegetables at dinner time, they’re not going to want vegetables either.  Don’t blame us because your child has never seen a fresh pear.  It is your job as parents to introduce your kids to a variety of healthful foods, to teach them what should make up their daily diet and what is a treat or an occasional splurge, to set an example for them by eating healthfully yourself.

At our school, which services sixth through twelfth grades, we have no less than twenty entree options every single day.  We usually include at least three side dishes each day, three kinds of milk, and two kinds of juice.  Every day I hear kids complain there is nothing to eat.  So we offer new foods:  they have no interest in trying them.  They pass by the salad bar and get a cheeseburger.  They wrinkle their noses at vegetables unless they can put cheese on top.  Numerous kids have no idea what chickpeas are (we put them out for a week and were asked every day what they were) and the beautiful Red Anjou pears arranged in a basket at every serving line sit virtually untouched.  They will not eat plain berries; we have to sugar them.  We have salsa every Tuesday and one week we put black beans in it–we used only about a third of the salsa we usually do.  Last week, we had a chef come in and create a few entrees and sides for us.  Fresh cabbage and peppers?  No thanks.  No, we don’t like pineapple.  Can you pick the peapods out for me?  Um, I’ll just get a cookie.

Any worker in school nutrition will tell you–we are practically begging to offer your children the fresh and whole foods that will keep them strong, lean, and healthy.  But we need to offer foods they will eat, and if the stigma against plant foods is perpetuated, we can’t accomplish our goals.  Parents, you cannot be so quick to point your finger at us.  Look at what is on your dinner table tonight.  Look at the foods you have been feeding your children for years.  Look at what you eat yourself; look at what opinions you express toward peas and broccoli and spinach.  Think about how many times you order pizza or go to a restaurant and act more excited about it than when you cook a meal at home.

What your children eat is first and foremost a manifestation of the values you have instilled in them.  Grocery shop with your children and tell them about different fruits and vegetables.  Try new recipes.  Visit an orchard.  Show them how to read nutrition labels.  Research ingredients you don’t recognize.  Check out an ethnic restaurant you’ve never tried.  Lead by example and make healthy choices yourself.  When your children come to school excited about eating healthfully, then we can start to create real change in our lunch programs.  The school lunch program needs a foundation of kids raised to eat healthy foods to truly succeed.  We need your help and your support to make it happen.

Cookbooks for Christmas

December 31, 2009

Guess what I got for Christmas?  A pair of shiny new cookbooks!  I was a little surprised when I received them, but then I remembered how I’d shown both of the books to my fiance a few weeks ago.  This year I guess the little hints paid off!  There is nothing better than getting a new cookbook.  I love opening it for the first time–the scent of the paper and ink, the stiff binding, the pages white and not covered in cocoa, flour, or oil…


C is for Cookie

First up is Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, the newest creation by my idols role models Isa and Terry (I like to think that if we met, we would immediately be on a first name basis with each other).  This book is the same size and format as Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but instead dishes out kickass cookies and brownies.  I have to confess, I’ve been trying to eat healthfully and stay away from sweets, so I waited for the right occasion to crack this puppy open.  I’m glad I’ll be able to share this stuff with friends at a New Year’s Eve party instead of having to eat it all myself!  So far I’ve tried three recipes:  chocolate chip cheesecake brownies, no-bake Swedish chocolatey balls, and chocolate cut-out cookies.  All three turned out great!  I can’t wait to try some of the recreations of popular cookies–the book contains versions of Cowboy Cookies, Samoas, Caramel DeLites, and Nutter Butters–but I couldn’t be more pleased with the other recipes as well.  I am especially looking forward to trying the MACAROONS!

This book is sure to become another mainstay in my kitchen.  VCTOTW is one of my standbys whenever I need to make something for a party or potluck, but I think this new book might put up a good fight for the spotlight.  As said before, it’s organized the same as the cupcake book, so things are easy to find and the photos are interspersed throughout the book to tempt you into making nine recipes at once.  As I flipped through the recipes I found myself thinking, “Ooh!  I have all those ingredients!” many times.  With few exceptions, these cookies and brownies can be made with ingredients most of us already have in our pantry.  So pick up a copy of the book and be prepared to bake whenever the mood strikes!

book cover

1000 Vegan Recipes

The other book I received is 1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson.  I wanted to love her previous book Vegan Planet more than I did, and sorry to say it only sees occasional use in my kitchen.  But I do enjoy the creativity, flavor, and variety in Robin’s recipes, so I was excited to see this new book.

It doesn’t disappoint!  This thing is a friggin encyclopedia.  If you’ve ever been asked “What do you eat?” by a non-vegan, this is the perfect gift for them.  It contains everything from sauces to desserts, with a number of ethnic recipes as well as some good down-home type dishes.  In fact, there are so many recipes I hardly know where to start.

So, in the spirit of Julie & Julia, I’m thinking I may attempt to make all 1000 recipes…

Vegan MoFo Day 4: Serene Sunday

October 4, 2009

“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.”



Nothing is worth more than this day.

– Goethe

There is no greatness where there is not simplicity.

– Leo Tolstoy


It isn’t enough to talk about peace, one must believe it.

And it isn’t enough to to believe in it, one must work for it.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

memorialday 054

harvestparty 018

Ours was never a religious family, but we did always try to get all our chores and errands done on Saturday so that Sunday could be nothing but fun and relaxation.  I’d wake up and hear the radio playing in the kitchen while my parents sipped coffee and read the mammoth newspaper; they’d set aside the comics for me when I joined them with my bowl of cereal, and together we’d waste away the early hours of the day.  That relaxing morning, so simple and short, set us up for a fantastic day of…nothing.  We’d play, we’d see a museum, we’d drive around with no destination.  No matter how we spent the day it was with nothing but pure leisure in mind.

These days I try to keep up that tradition.  Life should never be so busy that your work needs to bleed into all seven days of the week.  Maybe you need to do chores every day; that’s fine, but make one day dedicated to work you at least enjoy.  The dishes can wait another 24 hours.


I think this philosophy translates well to animal activism too.  It seems that most of us work day and night for what we believe in, fostering dogs and feeding strays, handing out fliers and talking to friends, going to events, asking for more vegan options at restaurants and grocery stores, writing on blogs just like this one, contacting legislators, organizing demonstrations…you get the idea.  The work is never done and probably won’t be for a very very long time, and there’s so much to do to help animals that there are simply not enough activists to do it all.  As a result we often end up taking the world on our shoulders, not only adding activist work on top of our already busy schedules, but weaving it through our daily actions as well.

And it continues to add up.  Every time someone asks us what we can eat.  Every time someone hints that we are bad parents for raising our kids vegan.  Every time some misinformed person tells us we need to milk cows for their own good, and every time another unwanted bunny/chicken/pig/dog/cat/ferret is brought to the shelter and put on a euth list for being too old or not cute enough.  Each time we see another milk industry-sponsored “study” or hear about a CAFO investigation, we add it on to our lists.  We won’t stop until we can fix it.

But what happens to us?  Our hearts are in the right place, but somewhere deep down I think we all suffer from a tiny little misled belief that we can do it all.  We can’t, and our conscious mind knows it, but our inner engines keep running 24 hours a day anyway (I know I’m not the only one who has woken up at 3 a.m. and hopped online to write a letter or post something about animals).  All of the negativity, disappointment, anger and sadness we undoubtedly encounter as vegans and as activists builds up, because we are afraid to acknowledge that our work can be draining.

You heard it.  Sometimes being vegan just plain sucks.  Once in a while I just reach a tipping point where seeing one more photo of a pig makes me burst into tears.  Inevitably, we occasionally are faced with the feeling we’re running in place, because no matter how hard we work it seems we’re getting nowhere fast.  Most of us are ingrained with the fix-it gene:  when we feel this way, we stop crying and suck it up and tell ourselves we just need to work harder.  Our solution to being overwhelmed is to plunge our hands in the muck even deeper.

I’m telling you different.  Take a day off.

Reserve one day a week as your oasis.  Turn off the computer, turn off the television, hell, go somewhere where you can’t even see electronic devices, much less let them beep and yell at you all day.  Spend time with family, make yourself a nice home-cooked dinner, or if you don’t like to cook, order take-out and play board games on the living room floor.  Wear sweat pants.  Put on some David Bowie and dance around with your hairbrush.  Find something that relaxes you, rejuvenates you, makes you smile.  Find something that helps you remember you–not you-the-parent, not the whatever-you-do-for-a-job, not you-the-activist or you-the-vegan.  Under the Urban Decay makeup and organic cotton t-shirt you are still a person who needs a little time to love yourself.  For one day, forget about the world and do what you want to do, not what you need to do.  Step off the bullet train that is your life, if only for a few hours.

In the end, it’s not the sheer hours we put in for animals, or the amount of sweat and tears we shed.  It’s the heart we put into our work and our passion and compassion for animals that makes the difference.  Letting ourselves get beaten down and stressed out only makes us bitter.  We are activists because we want peace for all creatures–yes, that includes farm animals, but it also includes ourselves.

So sit down and have a cup of coffee and a cookie.  Baker’s orders.

all photos from personal collection; please do not re-post without permission.  text is open for personal use.

Vegan MoFo 2009: Introduction and Schedule

October 1, 2009

Thanks for tuning (well, clicking) in, and welcome to day 1 of Vegan MoFo [MOnth of FOod] 2009!  MoFo was started a few years back as a challenge for vegan bloggers.  The mission?  To post something about vegan food every day for the month of October.  Nothing more or less–just anything, as long as it has to do with vegan cuisine.

Some choose to do random, different posts each day, some have themes for each week, some do a theme each month.  I will be mixing those ideas.  I will…

Showcase a different vegan ingredient every day through the month of October!

Thirty-one days gives me plenty of opportunity to mix the well-known ingredients that give non-vegans trouble (tofu, for instance), vegan applications of mainstream ingredients, and the other fine food offerings known to most as “that weird vegan stuff” (you know–brown rice syrup, arrowroot powder, Silken, and the ever-terrifying agar-agar).

To challenge myself further, I’ll dedicate a couple of days a week to specific topics.  Here is the schedule for the month.

  • Mainstream Monday– I’ll show you recipes that can be made with ingredients found in any grocery store.  No froofy vegan food here, just basic, tasty meals made with staple foods and common produce.
  • Thrifty Tuesday– Tune in on Tuesdays to find meals that can be made on a budget.  I will not only list the recipe, but also the approximate price of each ingredient and a final breakdown of the nutrition you get and the price per serving.
  • Wednesday and Thursday– Grab bag- These posts won’t be confined to a specific category.
  • Farmer’s Market Friday– Today I’ll use produce found at the farmer’s market to create a fresh, hearty meal.
  • Sweet Saturday– Saturdays are dedicated to the love of sweets.
  • Serene Sunday– Sundays will be filled with inspiring quotes, photos of happy animals, and comforting, nurturing recipes to help you find a little peace in your day.

In addition:

Daily, I will post a reason to go vegan (on Halloween, I’ll post a countdown with all the reasons in the same post!).  I will also post links to alternative recipes that feature the same ingredient of the day.

How do you fit into all this?

Please, pretty please, feel free to comment with your own recipes with the day’s ingredient, give me your feedback if you try a recipe, or just say hi.  You can follow me with an RSS feed, or even e-mail me if you have an idea, suggestion, comment, rant, or a cute picture of a penguin that you want to share.

Tofu Scramble

September 18, 2009

This is probably the best tofu scramble I’ve made to date.  It doesn’t photograph well, but it sure tastes good!  It took me a while to get over my fear of tofu, but now I love it.  It’s useful for a lot of things, and if you blend it into desserts or smoothies, it’s an easy way to hide protein.  Tofu scramble doesn’t taste exactly like eggs, so don’t expect that.  But it has the same texture and it’s equally delicious.  Promise.



Tofu Scramble

1 block extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled (press the tofu over the sink to get the excess water out)

1 Tb olive oil

Seasonings:  black pepper, cumin, curry powder (small amount), mustard

2 Tb Vegenaise (I refuse to use any other brand…preferably, get the grapeseed kind)

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Heat the oil on medium in a large fry pan.  Crumble the tofu into the pan and stir frequently as it cooks.  Mix in Vegenaise and lemon juice and add seasonings to taste.  I recommend about a tablespoon of mustard, a few cracks of the pepper mill, maybe a teaspoon of cumin and half a teaspoon of curry (these are estimates!).  Fry 8-10 minutes or until hot and firm.  If you choose, mix in some fresh cilantro.  Serve with your favorite breakfast foods!

The Girl With the Spatula

September 18, 2009
me in my messy kitchen

me in my messy kitchen

Hi, I’m Sarah.

Have I introduced myself?  Maybe you know me, maybe you don’t.  But you’ve probably seen me–I’m that girl running frantically around the grocery store wearing a shirt covered in flour.  I’m the girl whose kitchen light you’ve seen on at 2 am, and if you peeked in you’ve seen me creaming butter (Earth Balance, that is)  in my pajamas. I’m the girl who is driving, just a little erratically, 10 mph under the speed limit, so that my cake doesn’t tip over in the car.  And I’m the one walking slowly around the bakery, taking note of every sweet as I think up my next recipe experiment.

Oh yeah, and I own more spatulas than any one person should.

I’m the girl that is passionate about food, though most don’t understand why.  To me, food is an art form, a means of expression.  Each meal is a statement of my feelings, the weather, even my beliefs.  I love seeing the smile on people’s faces when they receive a box of treats.  Gifts are special, but gifts of food are something else entirely–intimate, special things that show someone cares about you.  Food is a simple pleasure–it takes work to create, sure, but even the process is enjoyable in itself.  From farmer’s market to stockpot to serving dish, food is full of the joy of life.

Of course, I can’t spend all day cooking, so once in a while I do other things too.  I have an odd but rewarding job working in a high school kitchen.  I was skeptical at first, but I love it.  My greatest joy aside from food is the outdoors, and I use as much free time as possible hiking, kayaking, skiing, camping, or even going for a simple stroll.  I also devote a lot of time to activism for animals and for the environment.  I’m the moderator of an animal rights e-mail list and I do fundraisers for charities at least yearly.  I feel so lucky and blessed to have what I do in life, and I feel it would be a waste of my abilities and knowledge not to help others who are less fortunate.  My heart is full of love for my fiance, Matt, and our daughter Amelia, who’s 1 1/2 years old, vegan, and growing faster than I can believe.  We are working to plan a wedding ceremony, which will take place next June in our forever home (in our hearts!), Marquette, Michigan.

I have been vegan for four years now (my veg-a-versary is this week, actually).  Originally I thought it would be a way to lose weight, and I was right, but I have found more and more reasons to maintain my lifestyle than I ever thought possible.  Since going vegan my allergies and migraines have disappeared, I no longer get sick and cranky for a week each month, my joint pain has disappeared and I am no longer overweight.  I am happier and do not mindlessly eat as I used to.  I’ve found peace knowing I do not take part in the death of other sentient beings, and I have found purpose in educating others about the issues surrounding animal agriculture.

It’s not always cookies and sunshine.  I am questioned frequently by people who haven’t the slightest clue where their food comes from, and I am challenged by those who believe our species is somehow entitled to torture others for the sake of a meal.  Now and then I am admittedly disheartened by the amount of unspeakable cruelty that goes on behind those slaughterhouse doors despite so many people working for change.  But most days, I feel empowered, light, inspired, and joyful.

It is this joy that I hope to share through my writing.  At one time I thought a vegan diet was impossible, but then I opened my mind.  It is possible to go vegan.  It is affordable.  It is healthy.  And it is nowhere near deprived of flavor or variety.  What’s more, it is a wonderful lift for the soul.

As I continue this blog, I hope to learn more about all of you who read even occasionally.  Let’s get to know each other!