Picnic and (Iron)Pigs!

Tonight I’m going on a double-date picnic at a baseball game! Goodbye, summer!

I’m excited to squish my toes in the grass, see how much I actually know about baseball (I think I finally get it), and share vegan foods with good friends.

One of the dishes I’m bringing is a mock-tuna salad. I can’t take the credit for this one – it comes straight from one of my favorite cooks, authors, podcasters, and all-around inspirational people, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

It’s the first time I’m making this particular recipe, and I’m totally impressed by how healthy it is! Even with Vegenaise (which is an amazing animal-free mayo substitute, but not low calorie by any means) it’s so full of fresh, whole foods that one serving only gets a tiny portion of Vegenaise, so don’t feel bad about eating this!

Better-Than-Tuna Salad (from The Vegan Table)

  • 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup Vegenaise
  • 1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

I used the food processor for everything, and did it in this order:

Cut the carrots into 1-inch thick chunks, to help them break up easier in the food processer. Throw them in and process until they’re in tiny pieces/shreds. Transfer to a LARGE mixing bowl.  Cut the bell pepper and celery into 1-inch chunks, and do the same thing, transferring to the bowl.

Add walnuts and parsley to processor, mix until crumbly. Add to bowl. Add chickpeas to processor, mix until crumbly – consistency will be like a dry peanut butter, still film and crumbly, but really soft. Add to bowl.

Add Vegenaise, mustard and salt and pepper to bowl, mix everything together. THAT’S IT! *Note: You can add some sea vegetable flakes, like kelp or dulse, to the mix to make it taste “fishy” you’d like that.

This makes a TON of food! I filled two medium-sized tupperware containers with the salad. This is very inexpensive, and would be great for a large family, a potluck or party at which you need to feed a lot of people.

Some raw chopped onions would make a nice addition, but I didn’t want us all to have to breathe on each other with onion breath all night.

Spread on a sandwich, in a pita, or over some greens. ENJOY!

Things I Like Thursdays!

Enjoy this random sampling:

Vegetarian Living UK Magazine – What a gorgeous publication! This magazine is in the realm of VegNews in that it has interviews, product reviews, recipes, and a smattering of other things – but it’s fancier. The photographs are lovely, the products reviewed all have great package design and functionality, and the recipes are simple but fresh. *Note: This is not specifically a VEGAN magazine, some recipes call for eggs and such, but it’s a great chance to practice your substituting skills! Costs $8.99, but worth it.

McDougall Soups – I try to keep a few of these guys in the house at all times. They make a healthy, tasty and quick meal if you’re off to work and don’t have any leftovers to pack. These soups are via Dr. John McDougall (famed doctor, author and advocate of plant-based diets). They are ALL organic and vegan, and come in awesome flavors like Black Bean Lime and “Chicken” Ramen. They are made with natural dehydrated ingredients – no crappy stuff here! Just add water and you have a tasty, healthy, low-fat lunch. And trust me, they are delicious. Approx. $1.79/each.

Lotta Jansdotter’s New Book – She’s done it again.  “Handmade Living: A Fresh Take on Scandanavian Style”, the newest addition to Lotta Jansdotters DIY craft books, is a collection of home decor ideas, flea market finds mixed with modern peices, and of course, how to make your own gorgeous prints. Like most of her books, this one does include stencils to help you make most of the print designs featured in the book, and also recipe cards! This is a great resource to get your mind thinking creatively, and get your home a little more beautiful, too. List price, $29.95 (Amazon has it for $10 off!).

Folding Yoga Mat – If you have to buy exercise equipment that maybe happens to sit in storage too often, it should take up as little precious space as possible, right? I recently discovered this folding yoga mat. This takes care of what happens when you unroll another mat only to find it curled and distorted. This will make it more difficult to find excuses not to exercise. Various brands and prices.

Letterpress Recipe Cards – I confess. Many of my recipes that aren’t in actual books are scribbled haphazardly on tiny pieces of paper scattered around my kitchen. If you’re like me, then you’re due for an upgrade from that, uh, filing system. (Failing system? HA HA.) Take a gander at these gorgeous handmade letterpress recipe cards! The type is hand drawn and turned into letterpress plates. And for the price, you get the whole SET which includes 42 recipe cards in 6 colors, and 7 category divider cards. So pretty, so functional. Let’s make this step together. $29.00 from 1 Canoe 2, via Etsy.

You Always End Up in the City.

After my week in the hospital I can conclude that looking out windows at the sunshine is not nearly the same as feeling it on your skin. Not at all. I could almost feel the vitamin D seep out of my body.

On Saturday, to celebrate FREEDOM!!! my boyfriend and I hopped a train to NYC. (The great thing about this part of Pennsylvania is that so many towns and cities are just a short drive away. Spontaneous road trips are so easy.)

As we got closer, I felt like we were traveling to Mecca, as our first stop was… the CB2 NY store. The CB2 catalogues are lustworthy for any urbanite looking for affordable modern pieces (think the beauty of the Anthropologie catalogues but for sleek furniture). I learned how to render (fancy word for “color”) my interior design projects by using the textures and colors of their stuff as inspiration. I’m pretty sure walking in was less walking and more, I don’t know, skipping?

Inside, I died of joy four thousand times and sat on every single chair/sofa, touched every bowl/comforter, and nearly hugged the sales team. My boyfriend took multiple photos of the event – nay, Event! with a capital E – but they all came out blurry and weird, like when people claim to capture angels on film and it’s a distortion that doesn’t come close to the real thing. Anyway, mmmm sofas.

We ate lunch at Red Bamboo, and I found it oddly refreshing that the prices were completely moderate (dare I say, cheap?) and we were so full halfway through our entrees that we didn’t even get food the rest of the day, despite walking miles and miles all over the city.

Ryan got the Red Bamboo club sandwich, a glorious combination of a thick slice of marinated tofu, the best seitan bacon ever, and some tasty condiments.

I got the filet of “fish” sandwich. Three words: vegan tartar sauce. Sometimes a simple condiment gives me a memory or throwback to a meal I enjoyed when I still ate meat. (Also, why have I never made this? Veganaise and relish for crying out loud! So easy!) The lemon on the “fish” was a little overpowering, but the melty vegan cheese and sheer novelty of tasting flavors I haven’t had in a while was FUN. Eating is fun, isn’t it?

But... but but but. The appetizer was what really did me in. I nearly had my own version of the famous Meg Ryan orgasm-in-the-deli scene, except not faking it. Behold… Vegan Coconut Almond Chicken.

I have attempted to write about it’s glorious flavors, the crispy panko texture, the way the succulent faux-chicken breaks apart in your mouth.. but there are no words. Just behold it’s beauty. And promise yourself you’ll order this if you ever find yourself in NYC. Then save some for me.

The rest of the day included free jazz in Prospect Park, trying (and failing) to gain the right footing when I had to stand on the subway, and marveling at all the cool stuff in boxes marked FREE outside of apartments. Also, we went to a bar in which EVERY SINGLE GUY – I am not exaggerating – had a moustache.

And in New York, every single girl has these sandals.

It’s good to be living life again. I feel like I have a second chance. Maybe at this point a fourth, fifth. I want to continue to spend it learning constantly, letting optimism drive me, leaving the past neatly tucked away and actively making my life every day moving forward.

Guess what? You can do the same thing. And you don’t even have to go to New York.

Cosmetics: The Illustrated Edition

Have you heard of the Story of Stuff project with Annie Leonard?

I came a little late to the Story of Stuff train, but recently heard of it after finding the book that came after the popular blog and online video took off. In The Story of Stuff, simple illustrations are used to explain how STUFF (tshirts, packaging, things for the home, etc…) is made, marketed, used and then disposed of.

Last month, the project took it a step further and released a new video along the same lines with a focus on cosmetics.

I can go on and on about why women don’t need makeup, you should feel good on your own skin, natural is beautiful, etc… But for me, makeup is an extension of self expression. I feel most confident in my big ole’ hair and eyeliner and bright colored high heels – not because I feel oppressed by gender norms, but because I like playing dress up – always have, always will.

(Me, age 5-ish. A billion accessories, blue eyeshadow, pink lipgloss. Hugging a dog.)

While I’d bet there are makeup users across the world with MUCH more makeup than me, I do have a fair amount accumulated and the subject of makeup is one I’ve always investigated at arms length. As in: I don’t want someone to tell me I’m eating chemicals in my lipstick, or that my mascara is hurting the environment. Ignorance is bliss, right?

Except when it’s not. With animal friendly and eco-friendly lines coming out all the time, a girl can have her lipgloss and eat it too (literally)! This is a huge topic that has entire blogs and books devoted just to finding the best companies and products that rank high in the area of ethics, but if you are someone that never looked into it much, take a gander at The Story of Cosmetics.

This is great not just for glamour girls and drag queens – products we all use every day like shampoo and toothpaste can be swapped out for products better for the environment and animals (human and otherwise).  I’d have to think that somewhere in your heart, you have compassion for any of the above things. And even if you couldn’t care less about the latter, get selfish and think about yourself – do you want to slather your skin, the largest and very porous organ, with CRAP?

Why do we freak out if we get splashed with a mud puddle, but think nothing of applying, say, a moisturizer full of a billion chemicals we can’t pronounce? If we strive to eat less processed food, shouldn’t we also care about using more natural products on the outsides of our bodies, too?

Need resources for what companies and brands are ok, or improving? Check out:

Coffee Lust – Good or Bad?

The day after my computer broke, my hand-eye coordination also broke and I chopped off the end of my thumb while making lunch. I’ll spare you the gory details (keyword: gory) and just let you know that it’s healing well! Thanks for the concern.

(For added fun, be sure to ask where I found the chopped-off part once I got home from the hospital! OR DON’T.)

Life is full of contradictions. Something that comes up in my research and general reading all the time is the subject of coffee. Not the fair trade VS free trade, shade grown or not, etc… stuff – though there is a lot to be said for all of that, too. But rather, an admission:

I’m still not sure if coffee is good for bad for you.

Talk to anyone and they are bound to have some information, or at the very least, an opinion one way or the other. I’ll tell you that I like coffee a lot and drink it almost every day, not because I “need my coffee or I just can’t function” – but for the ritual of it, the flavor, and the occasional caffeine jolt. That’s not to say that sometimes coffee hasn’t made me feel absolutely lousy, too, leaving me dehydrated or jittery when having consumed too much.

In my attempt to be unbaised, I present some of the most common arguments for/against coffee consumption:

Why Some Say Coffee is Bad for Health: Caffeine is a mild addictive stimulant. Coffee can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Can irritate the stomach and bowels. Caffeine crash. Some research shows that coffee can slow calcium absorption.

More Fun: Why Many Believe Coffee Has Health Benefits: Some studies show drinking coffee could reduce the risk of Parkinson’s, Type 2 Diabetes, colon cancer, asthma, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. Full of antioxidants. Anti-aging benefits.

If you do the research, you’ll find many reputable health facilities and doctors claiming that the benefits of coffee far outweigh the cons. But remember – everything in moderation. One or two cups of coffee may be okay, but having seven will not be better (and my stomach hurts at the thought of it!).

It’s important to remember that the coffee I’m talking about here is NOT a caramel latte or loaded with cream and sugar. If you must use a sweetener, choose something natural (like agave or stevia) and use in moderation.

Check out this cute blog, The Coffee Bump, for little facts and features about coffee, including articles about how coffee supports health!

The Drifters Who’d Gone Under

This just crawled into my ears and I don’t want to let it out. Set down your bags, song, and stay a while.

I had a dream last night
I dreamt that I was swimming
And the stars up above
Directionless and drifting
Somewhere in the dark
Were the sirens and the thunder
And around me as I swam
The drifters who’d gone under

Time, love
Time, love
Time, love
It’s only a change of time

I had a dream last night
And rusting far below me
Battered hulls and broken hardships

Leviathan and Lonely
I was thirsty so I drank
And though it was salt water
There was something about the way
It tasted so familiar

The black clouds I’m hanging
This anchor I’m dragging
The sails of memory rip open in silence
We cut through the lowlands
All hands through the saltlands
The white caps of memory
Confusing and violent

I had a dream last night
And when I opened my eyes
Your shoulder blade, your spine
Were shorelines in the moon light
New worlds for the weary
New lands for the living
I could make it if I tried
I closed my eyes I kept on swimming

Settle Down.

A funny thing is happening. Large, vast amounts of hours of my time that I used to spend watching makeup videos on Youtube and reruns of Top Chef are now spent, you know, living and working at goals I have set and projects I believe in. The life I always wanted to have is falling into place every day, but with several jobs, school, and new projects that seem to happen every week, time for doing nothing is very rare.

And if it does, I find myself feeling remorseful and guilty. When did taking a break begin to feel wrong?

“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a rest.”

Today I think I got to the root of the issue – I have been working so hard (safe to say, harder than I ever have in my life, on anything) to foster and create these new endeavors and relationships, and I worry if I stall or hold back even a little bit, it will disappear.

Constantly working at things has let me see the results that hard work brings – a better paycheck, a new and vibrant social life, events and projects to plan and carry out, and becoming someone with a reputation for diving into what I’m passionate about.

I get up every day and put in about 12-13 hours on average. I “deserve” the good stuff. If I sit and watch a movie or read a leisure book, I now feel undeserving. As if the universe will just turn into a vacuum and suck up everything I’ve worked at over the duration of one lazy afternoon.

The end of last week it hit all hit me, and I went into hibernation. New projects are so exciting, but trying to balance all of them and still do a good job is proving to be harder than I thought.

While hiding away from your responsibilities is not right, but it is important to be able to take a rest. (And don’t confuse “rest” with laziness – it’s not!)  Rest is a time for rejuvination, so the things we love can besome less overwhelming and more exciting and enjoyable. Especially when it becomes Monday again and then you feel as I do now – HELLO, NEW DAY! HELLO, FRESH START!

Now get to work! And recipes are coming soon, I promise.

PS – I saw The Kids Are All Right and it broke my heart. I want a family of my own.

(*Rest pillow by Sew English, $45, via Etsy)