The Best Gifts Don’t Come in Boxes.

I have been the deeply grateful recipient of a random act of kindness, and I hope this inspires you and reminds you that something so seemingly small on your end can mean the world to someone else.

Yesterday was so exciting and so positive, and only got better when I got home to find an absolutely incredible e-mail from an old friend.

John Sico is a nice boy I met many years ago, though we had lost touch for a while save for becoming MySpace (remember that?) and more recently, Facebook friends. (One summer day my senior year of high school we left town and went to the beach and rode the ferris wheel when the sun was setting on the ocean. So cute!)

Out of the blue, I received this from him yesterday:

Hi Jaime!

I know we haven’t spoken in forever, but I’ve been reading your blog enthusiastically ever since I re-tracked you down here on the Facebooks. It’s so great! You’ve got an awesome voice there.

So with that said, perhaps I’ve overstepped a bit, but I keep visiting “savethekales.com” to find your blog…and not getting there. Just out of curiosity, I checked if it was available, and it was…so I bought it, so no one else could grab it from you. I know how much of a bummer it is to not get your own domain name.

If you want the domain at some point, just let me know, and I’ll transfer it over to you! In the meantime, I’ve just redirected it to your WordPress blog.

Hopefully you don’t find it weird that I did that…I just didn’t want to see it get snatched before you could register it!

– john

This is, literally, one of the most beautiful things anyone has ever done for me.

I still can’t the words to express how very much a gesture like this means! The fact John thought to do that, not to mention actually went and did it, humbles me to the core.

So, help me send a thousand warm wishes to John, because Save the Kales! is now a regular dot com website! (Sort of. I’ll be working with a designer soon to spruce things up a bit.) But go ahead, try it! Type in http://www.savethekales.com Isn’t that wonderful!?

(“A Little Reminder” print, Studio Mela on Etsy $20)

Recipe Improv: Last Night’s Dinner

Wow, 95 degrees AND thunderstorms. What the heck are you supposed to do with weather like that? Last night was one of those times it’s simply too hot to eat. Except, of course, that I’m always hungry. My solution? Make a mostly raw, light dinner.

Here’s what I came up with:

Corn, Black Bean and Strawberry Salad

  • 3 ears of raw sweet corn, kernels removed
  • 1 diced poblano pepper
  • 2 tomatoes with seeds removed, diced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 pound strawberries, diced (half of a container)
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • a few shakes of garlic powder

Using a knife, carefully cut the kernels off the cobs of corn. Add to large bowl. Chop a poblano pepper after seeds have been removed, and add to bowl. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze the seeds and liquid into a bowl and discard. Dice seeded tomatoes and add to bowl. Add black beans, cilantro and strawberries.

Mix together. Drizzle a little olive oil and toss. Add cumin and garlic powder and toss again. For more sweetness, cut and add more strawberries.

I turned this salad into a wrap:

  • 1 quarter avocado, sliced, per wrap
  • whole wheat wrap

I put the salad into a wrap and added some fresh avocado to get some healthy fats in there. (Plus, come on, do you need to list reasons to eat avocados? Isn’t the fact that they are delicious simply enough?)

The strawberries blend well with the sweetness of the raw corn, and make this a light and very refreshing meal. You could play up the spicy factor and add more hot peppers or make a hot sauce, or compliment the sweet strawberries with a balsamic glaze. I ate it without any dressing or sauce and it was really fresh and tasty!

This is great weather for eating fresh, raw foods but man, I want it to be September. I long for sweater weather.

VIDEO POST: Stocking a Pantry

Vacation is great! The waves keep knocking me over and I tumble face-first onto the beach and then pick sand shells out of my bathing suit the rest of the day (literally).

Today it’s about 99 degrees outside. That doesn’t fare well for fair skin. I’m already sporting the Jaime-equivalent of a tan, pink skin and a smattering of freckles running together.

I hope you are all having a wonderful time livin’ life wherever you are! And while you’re at it, watch this and get some ideas for my recommended ingredients to have on stock at all times. (I forgot one: spicy mustard!)

I’ll be back soon enough. Be well!

STORM THE BEACH.

Hi everybody. Do you like this photo of me at the beach in 1954?

Well, I’m there again, and I have the swimsuit, floppy hat and sunglasses in tow.

I still have that new video for you, so once I’m good and settled with my toes in the sand and my super-high SPF sunscreen slathered all over, I’ll get to editing. (Can you get the internet at the beach?)

“A vacation is like love – anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia.”

See you soon!

Political Optimism.

I’m under the weather today. Ideally I would have made a new video (the first in so long, the first in my new place!) but getting off the couch is a bit of a chore. I’ve been mostly reading and taking advantage of the instant watch feature on Netflix, and just finished watching No Impact Man.

A brief summary: This is a documentary about a man and his family as they attempt to live as green as possible for a year. They live in New York City, have an enviably cool apartment (the chairs!!!), and what seems like a wonderful and communicative relationship. Over the course of the year they cut out buying anything in packaging, begin to compost inside their apartment kitchen, give up toilet paper and other throw-away products, make all their own soaps, and forgo electricity.

I recommend the movie! But aside from just the basic message of the film – live comfortably using as little of the earth’s resources as possible – the filmmaker has such bright outlooks on the drive of people to make direct positive impacts on the world.

“If just I change, it’s not going to make much of a difference. But the hope is, if a lot of us as individuals change, it’s going to inspire everybody to change. So I believe the most radical political act there is is to be an optimist.

All of us are interconnected, and on many levels. If you’re religious, you understand that at a religious level. But even if you’re just practical you can see that we’re interconnected. If I splash a puddle and you’re standing next to it, it splashes you. If I make pollution, you have to breathe it in.

My mind wants to tell me that I’m the only one that’s important. So I have to keep teaching myself over and over again that that’s not true.” – No Impact Man

What we do affects others. Every day we make choices, no just in what we consume, but in our way of going through a day that it completely tied to other people we encounter in person and those we never see.

Holding a door for someone. Letting someone across the street go through a stop sign before you. Complimenting someone on what they are wearing. Engaging in conversation, even for a minute, to make a connection to someone else as a human being. These are all small ways where kindness and optimism can become contagious.

I remember when I was in college (round one, ha!) and one of my professors told us about his former job working for Crayola on the line for the paper wrappers that go around the crayons. And I remember thinking, “Wow. That’s someone’s job. Someone makes their living wrapping the crayons I have used for many years of my life.” ย This man supported his family, ย bought a home, and got up every day to go to this job most people don’t think about, but so many have directly used. Isn’t that incredible to think about?

When we back up and try to imagine that in the larger scope of our lives, we are affected (and in turn affect) hundreds and thousands of people, every day!

I began to watch another film, which begins with this quote:

“If one pulls on a single thread in nature, you’ll find it attached to everything else.” – John Muir

Interconnectedness is certainly abound. What timing! And on a personal and incredible level, I just checked my email and got a wonderful message from a new reader who told me a great story about how she found out about this blog. Her daughter was getting dental work done, and she was asking a woman in the dental office about what kinds of foods her daughter could eat while she was healing. She was especially curious as they are a vegetarian family. Turns out the dental employee had come to my cooking class, and told this woman and her daughter all about Save the Kales!

Now I’m going to be working with her in person as a nutritional case study for school. It’s so wonderful, and directly ties in with this whole idea that we can become a part of someone’s life without even knowing it!

Today, take notice of the products you use. Think about the folks who work hard every day that have some hand in creating that product. Say hello to a stranger. Look at items and food that you buy and consider how it impacts the earth and other people. And do it with the joyful knowledge that we are all in this together.

And I believe that really can change the world.

Dinner date.

Hectic schedules and saving money for vacation (WOOHOO!) meant that “date night” last week (I feel like a soccer mom being interviewed for Better Homes and Gardens when I say that) was a meal in the back yard with candles, wine and later a walk to Vegan Treats for cherry-chocolate soft serve.

I’ve pulled out some cookbooks I haven’t flipped through in a while to give me new flavor ideas, and came across this simple and absolutely wonderful recipe for Caribbean Jerk Tofu and roasted vegetables from Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites. Allow me to share! This is a copy of the recipe, edited a little by me.

Caribbean Jerk Tofu

2 tofu cakes, pressed and cut into triangles, cubes, or “steaks”

MARINADE/SAUCE:

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 fresh chilis or jalapeno, sliced and seeds removed
  • 3 TBPS tamari sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • a little black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Press the tofu to drain water. Put all marinade ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Put tofu in a dish and pour marinade over the top. Store in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Put marinated tofu on a baking sheet, spooning extra marinade on top. Bake for an hour, turning over once or twice.

Caribbean Roasted Veggies

(This is very close to theย marinade recipe above, so you can always try making extra and just using that if you want to save a little time! But I think this recipe holds up better to coat the vegetables.)

DRESSING

  • 3 TBSP tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 fresh chili or jalapeno, seeds removed

Blend all ingredients in a food processor.

The vegetables I used were: one zucchini, 2 red potatoes, one large sweet potato, one large bell pepper. (You can use these and/or carrots and thick slices of onion.) Veggies were cut into chunks.

Oven should be heated to 425 degrees. Toss veggies with dressing in a large bowl, then add to a baking sheet coated with spray oil. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Stir veggies once or twice during baking to prevent sticking to the pan.

Verdict: SO DELICIOUS, and the house smelled great for two days! This is a really unique combination of seasonings and flavor, and with a well-stocked pantry, the marinade can be made almost any time, for whatever you’re cooking.

I also made wheat berries (in place of rice), dressed simply with olive oil, fresh cilantro and lemon juice. If you’re not sure what a wheat berry is, get rid of your preconception because NOT a berry. It’s a whole wheat kernel (flour is made from these little guys!) that can be used as you’d use rice.

Wheat berries are cooked with a 3:1 ratio (3 cups water, 1 cup dried wheat berries), and once cooked, they have a very chewy al dente texture and an earthy, nutty flavor. If you like white bread, these may take some getting used to. If you like whole grain bread full of nuts and seeds and little crunchy things, you’re going to LOVE wheat berries.

I had many ingredients already in my pantry, so this whole dinner only cost about $5.00. And there were plenty of leftovers. And room for vegan ice cream (barely).

Pink Dress and Pretty Cake: VEGAN WEDDING special!

Every Monday for the past few weeks, Facebook has seen a barrage of wedding photos from the weekend. It’s been very adorable to see so many dear friends celebrating their Wedding Days in unique and personal ways. (And, I admit through gritted teeth, it makes me want to start to plan my own huge celebration party!)

This brings me to Kate. Kate is a Save the Kales! reader and recently married her super cute now-husband, Aaron (who have both started a non-profit called the Animal Awareness Project – read on to learn more!) The photos of this beautiful couple prompted me to ask Kate more about their wedding, only to learn so much useful and inspiring information about not just wedding planning, but incorporating your values into all you do.

Read on to see the interview with Kate about the occasional stresses but mostly joys of throwing an all-vegan wedding.

Did you ever consider having a wedding that wasn’t vegan? A lot of people may feel that they are putting their guests out by doing this. How did you overcome that feeling, or did you ever have it?

We knew from the moment we got engaged that we would have a vegan wedding no matter what. We did not for one second want to compromise our ethics or beliefs and we saw it as a great way to show our family and friends how amazing vegan food is, and how easy it is to do. My dad was worried at first that some people would not like the food and he constantly tried to convince us to have one meat dish. But we did not compromise, and all the guests were really impressed with the food.


Did you face obstacles planning your vegan wedding? Was it difficult to find businesses that supported your ethics? Can you offer readers any tips?

We really lucked out with planning. We held our event at a Green Wedding facility called the Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, Maryland. They encouraged us to do a vegan wedding because that would make for the “greenest” wedding they had ever had there. Basically I would recommend that people search the internet like we did, and go meet with and sample the possible food options. We were really impressed by everyone who played a part.

Tell me more about the reception and the Irvine Nature Center.

It was easy to have the ceremony and reception in one place and it was so beautiful there. We wanted a place that was outdoors and brought us and our guests in close contact with the natural world. We were able to have a ceremony in the woods over-looking a beautiful valley, hear birds, have a bonfire, and be surrounded by flowers and trees. It was a beautiful place and when we first visited we felt it was magical.

Okay, the food. Let’s talk about the food. Where did it come from, and what did you serve? Who made the wedding cake?

The food, oh the food. It was amazing. We went with a catering company who offers many vegan and even raw vegan options. Zia’s Cafe/Catering of Towson Maryland. They were amazing! Some of the yummy items were: Raw Spring rolls with peanut ginger sauce, raw vegan pizza, raw vegan pineapple and cucumber shooters, vegan Portobello and polenta Napoleons made with Daiya vegan cheese, asian ginger string beans, vegan butternut squash lasagna with vegan bechamel sauce, drunken strawberries, spinach risotto, herbed dinner rolls, tempeh chick’un skewars with peanut sauce and balsamic lentil and beet salad.


We had so many non vegans saying how much they loved the food and how impressed they were. It was so yummy. We did some food items at our cocktail hour, and the rest was done buffet style.

The wedding cake was made by an All Vegan bakery based in Baltimore city called Brunie’s Bakery. Tamara, the owner and baker made us an amazing cake called “Spring Time Divine”. It was layers of yellow cake with lemon and raspberry curd. She also made us a separate sheet cake that was a vegan red velvet cake.

There was no cake left at the end of the night. It was so good, that the non vegans kept asking how she did it. ๐Ÿ™‚

What other vegan or eco-friendly components went into the wedding? (Did you have invitations on recycled paper, did you ask guests to contribute to a nonprofit, etc..)
As a favor for our guests we gave little thank you jars with vegan mints inside. We also sent out a limited amount of paper invites which we made ourselves on recycled paper. The rest of the announcements we did through the internet to save paper.
In Lieu of presents we asked our guests to make a donation to our non profit; The Animal Awareness Project, Inc. Any disposable cups and forks that were used by Zia’s were all compostable.

You’re amazing. Tell us about the Animal Awareness Project.

The Animal Awareness Project, Inc is an Animal Rights organization we started last summer 2009 and we are based in Ellicott City, Maryland. We are striving to become the first Vegan/ Animal Rights AD company in Baltimore City and around Maryland.

Other cities use advertising as way to spread the compassionate message and Baltimore has yet to embrace that method. We are now working with AD companies to start doing Bus ADs, Billboard ADs, Radio AD’s and more. We also do humane education in the school systems. We go into schools in Baltimore and around Maryland to inform students about the reality of where their food comes from and how animals are treated.

We do tons of vegan outreach as well. We go to colleges, concerts and local events to leaflet vegan material to the masses! We hold vegan feed ins on college campuses and at festivals and events. This summer we are joining other AR groups to leaflet the Warp Tour, and we will be tabling at the TAFA conference. We are starting to do lots of fundraising and benefits to grow vegan ADs in Baltimore and beyond.

How did some of your non-vegan guests react to a vegan wedding? Did you get feedback?

Everyone was impressed who was a non vegan. We were really happy that people liked the food and the cake so much. It was a great way to show people how amazing and creative vegan food is. All of the feedback was positive!

Can you talk about your personal feelings on the notion of combining personal morals and ethics with “the happiest day of your life”? Could you have imagined it any other way?

We knew that this day was about us and our love and our new journey together and we wanted every minute of it to stay true to who we are and our beliefs. Even though we were somewhat pressured at first by family to not go with an all vegan wedding, we did and we are so glad we followed our hearts and stayed true to ourselves. We would have not done it any other way!

What final advice can you give to folks looking to plan their own wedding?
Always stay true to yourselves and make sure you are both equally involved in the planning and that you keep it fun. Do not stress about things and on your actual day stay as present and in the moment as possible because it all happens so fast.

(Kate on her honeymoon in Hawaii… surely dreaming about that beautiful cake.)

To learn more about Kate and Aaron’s non-profit, the Animal Awareness Project, please click here.

While it’s so beautiful to learn about a celebration like this and discovering there are ways to make it your own, remember: you don’t need a huge event to make choices every day that can do good and make you feel good. Every moment is a chance to live our lives with passion and purpose.