PRODUCT REVIEW: Daiya Pepperjack (Vegan) Cheese

For vegan cheese veterans, count me among the masses that adore Daiya products.

Ooey-gooey melty AND only 90 calories AND no animals harmed, everyone wins!

For those of of you that never tried it but are curious, let me encourage you to try it. It’s so good. SO GOOD.

Here’s the thing: I don’t buy it or use it very often. Mostly because a) it’s a little pricey; at $4.99 a bag it’s fine once in a while, but I don’t have the budget to smother everything with this stuff all the time, and b) I don’t want to rely on having to cover everything with cheese, albiet vegan, for something to taste good.

That said, I get some once or twice a month as a treat, and I cannot express to you my utter joy when I found out they had…. (cue dramatic music) PEPPERJACK “CHEESE”.

I can’t even believe I waited this long to get it, but it’s everything I hoped it would be and more. Last week I was lazy and just made some little pizzas for dinner. A basic whole wheat dough, jarred tomato sauce, and Daiya in the oven til crispy and melty.

This may, in fact, change your life.

You should be able to find Daiya at health food stores, and if you live in the Lehigh Valley I can confirm that Wegman’s stores also carry it (organic food refrigerated section).

The only downside to this stuff is that you are going to crave it and want to put it on everything, and just want to eat pizzas all day, every day, forever. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying this!

*If you’re new to Daiya products, I recommend (in order of most delicious, in my opinion): Pepperjack first, then Mozzarella, then Cheddar. 

LIFE IS GOOD: Guest Post by Yvonne

This came to me about two weeks ago from a lovely lady I just got to know better in recent months. Yvonne is an amazing woman that devotes any time she can to supporting and promoting what she believes in, be it a business, band, organization, etc… and loves doing it with her whole heart. For example, she books shows, will provide an out of town band with a place to stay, make sure they get homecooked food, promote their show to no end, and then sort of shrug and say “I just like doing it”. 

Yvonne put this online for her friends to read, and I loved it and asked if I could repost it here. Reprinted with Permission.

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a year ago, i was in whitehall living in a fancy apt complex. i had a washer, a dryer, a dishwasher and a patio. there was a clubhouse with a pool and a gym. my silver chrysler voyager didn’t have a scratch on it. i was working full time, raising my children and still dealing with the decision to leave their father. i walked into a place and was invisible. i was sad.

today, i live in a run down apt with drafty windows and it rains in my living room at least once a week. (my upstairs neighbors don’t know how to use a damn shower.) there’s construction in the lot in front of my building and it shakes and rattles my tiny home. my van is officially a “hooptie” now- dented on all sides, rusted, busted windshield and the tape deck is broken. my job moved me to nights and i have to stay up with my kids all day.

but i’m not sad anymore.

and even though i beat myself up and ask a lot of questions, i’m confident and strong. my children are taken care of, my job is done when i punch out every morning, my car is paid off and even though its noisy and drippy sometimes, my home is clean and cozy. i help the people and movements that are important to me- that have helped me. i’ve made friends. i walk into a place and am greeted with hugs and smiles.

i did it.

and i’m proud of the friends that i’ve made. even though it wasnt that long ago, i remember hearing about KIDS (“KIDS” is a band) when it was just an idea in bear’s mind. i remember the first time i met him and he showed me that david de la hoz video with dan smith in it. since then, i’ve started booking shows and i havent fucked up yet. kids has formed, toured and put a tape out. they get love all over. its been amazing to have grown in my own way alongside such good guys. and now, i’m even booking dan smith!

 this might be hard to follow because i tend to ramble and say a million things at once but hopefully you can see the paralells here and how everything comes around full circle. and maybe you’ll be able to sense the pride that i feel in having the courage to live my life the way i want. also, i’m so fucking grateful to the people i’ve met who have been encouraging, supportive and had my back through it all.

thanks.

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Yvonne, thanks for the reminder that we all have so much more than we think and we can make our own lives and our own happiness.

YOUNG AND CHUBBY: How I Was Described in Two Words Or Less

I have started, stopped, edited, restarted this post over the past few months. Today I acknowledge that I will never find a way to write about this in a concise, several-paragraph blog entry and to continue to try would be stifling this thing that has existed forever but is always evolving, always somehow exactly the same. This isn’t the beginning or the end and I couldn’t find either no matter how hard I’d try. 

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Early into my relationship with Ryan, I found out that I had been talked about by someone that, having never met me, described me, the new girlfriend, as “young and chubby”.  End statement.

The “young” is fine. It’s relative only by comparison, and while I suppose some people mean it to imply “stupid, inexperienced, ignorant, not to be taken seriously”, in this case there is a full 10 years between me and the person who made the statement. I am, in that respect, young(er). Okay.

“Chubby” is trickier. I want to say it’s not. I want to say growing up in a household with a brave and strong mother, a punk rock/feminist music scene that embraced Riot Grrl and discouraged body image disorders, graduating from a Women’s College with a minor in gender studies and the honor of being the student speaker at my graduation, being fully involved in a progressive/body positive/women positive subculture and lifestyle would make me simply… not care about something like that.

You would think.

I feel completely and utterly ashamed to admit to myself, let alone others, how much time is spent worrying that somehow my appearance will directly affect who I am and how others see me.

It’s not all bad. I have come to embrace, and even really like, parts of my body that previously caused so much grief. I learned early on: I’m not blonde, the closest I’ll ever get to a tan is if my freckles run together, I’m built like my father which means what I lack in the length of my legs I make up for in a way that leads my Mom to say things like, “You know Jaim, from the back you look like a Kardashian sister!” I like big, dark hair and colorful tattoos and hips and thighs, and that’s me.

I’m not sure if I’ve made peace with those parts because of or in spite of the fact that those are my genes, and I better get used to ’em, but the white flag of surrender has been waved.

Until, of course, something in my mind fires a sneak attack and burns that fucking flag to ash.

Here’s the thing: With all of my heart, I know that a person’s appearance does not equal their worth. I think all body types are beauitful, but not as beautiful as a person’s spirit or heart. I don’t think someone labeled “fat” is gross, lazy or any of the other negative implications that come with it, and certainly not less than. 

I was enraged when, a few years ago at my bookstore job, a mother turned away books about Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Betsy Ross, and Frida Kahlo because her daughter would say they “aren’t pretty enough” to write about for a book report. I have studied Betty Friedan and Jean Kilbourne. I grew up reading Ms. magazine and Bust! I thought Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” happened 30 years too late, but better late than never.

I know that who we are and what we do is always more important than the things we have or how we look.

And yet.

I’d like to walk into a room without immediately comparing myself to every other woman and letting that determine how I’ll feel about myself for the night.  I want to stop feeling that because someone else is pretty with features different than mine, it means I am less pretty (and thus less, in general). I want to watch a movie, look at a magazine or website, or generally exist without the constant worry in my head that suddenly the whole world will come to a startling halt to point, and laugh, and judge.

“I don’t understand, Jaime. You are the least shallow person I know, and yet, this… this is really, really shallow thinking”, Ryan tells me when I try to talk it out. He’s right. It’s embarrassing. It completely goes against everything I believe in my heart to be true – for other people. No. For every other person on the earth, except me. For me and me only, it’s entirely rational. Why do I do that?

A couple of months ago, some ladies and I started having meetings to discuss these very issues. I was shocked (yet somehow sadly comforted) to know I wasn’t the only one thinking this way.  These woman are smart, creative, own successful interesting businesses based on their passions, contribute to the community,  have very women-positive/feminist ethics, and frankly, they’re gorgeous.

We sit around, drinking wine and eating tabouli salads, trying to figure out WHAT IS GOING ON HERE and how, with lives that are so full of loving people and wonderful friends and getting paid to do what we love and all of that, all of the really truly important stuff covered, feeling “ugly” can ruin a day. “None of us would ever allow someone we love to be talked about in the ways we talk about ourselves”, a concept that we all agree is true. In fact, just imagining that someone would speak about our mothers, sisters, daughters or friends makes some of the group clench their fists and tell in gory detail what they’d likely do to that person (which would be the very opposite of “pretty”).

I wish I could say that together we found the magic pill, THE THING that will rid us of insecurity and body-obsession forever and ever! We haven’t. But I do know: When I leave, I always feel better. Not for the griping, the complaining, the airing of grievances, but to be in the company of such truly lovely people and that, despite talking about ugly feelings for several hours, remind me of what real beauty is.

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The afternoon I found out about the “young and chubby” comment, it hit hard. Is that what people think when they see me? Is that what I am, who I am? That’s me summed up?

I felt sick to my stomach and was thisclose to calling in sick at the bookstore, convinced I couldn’t go in public because somehow my existence was offensive.

The holiday season had just begun, and every year the store does a book drive: Buy a new book and it is donated to the organization chosen that year, always one where children that may not own books will get to take it home. If you choose, you can fill out a tag, “TO and FROM” and write your name on the FROM line.

There were barely any donations the entire night, when finally a couple in their mid-twenties decided to buy a book as a donation. They took care in selecting a special one, “Our daughter loves this and I’m sure another child will, too” they said with big smiles as I offered them to tag to fill out.

After they left, I realized that on the FROM line, instead of writing first names like “Danny and Megan”, they wrote:

someone who loves you

Chills ran all over my skin and in that second all the feelings of self-doubt drained from me, from my body, from my body that is me and that is mine. The body that is okay just as it is, which I know and somehow forget over and over. But these people, these wonderful people passed through at just the right moment to help me remember: love is all we have.

And that includes the love and respect we give ourselves.


BREAKFAST IMPROV: Banana Pancakes with Apple-Walnut Chutney and Peanut Butter Drizzle

I will never be able to enough about the bright, shiny, glorious weekly happening that are: Sundays. 

Perfect for sleeping in, farmer’s markets, books and movies, magically chores become somehow pleasant and enjoyable – no, domestic in the best way- and of course the much-anticipated BRUNCH!

When Ryan and I first started dating, I used to make banana pancakes for him all the time. For some reason I haven’t in a while, so this past weekend I brought ’em back into the rotation.

Behold:

Pancakes with Grilled Bananas, Apple-Walnut Chutney and Peanut Butter Drizzle

PANCAKES – I used the Banana Pecan recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance, minus the pecans, for the basic batter

Slice some bananas (in addition to the ones used in the batter), and once the batter is poured into the pan and starts to bubble, add the banana slices just before flipping. Flip the pancakes and allow second side to cook. When you take them out of the pan, the banana slices should be “grilled”. (It’s not a girll, I know, but you get it.)

PEANUT BUTTER DRIZZLE – Put a little water into a microwave safe bowl, and heat until water is really hot. Put a generous spoonful (or two) of peanut butter into the hot water, and mix until saucy consistency. The water should melt the peanut butter and water it down enough to be a thick drizzle. Add more water or peanut butter as needed for texture.

APPLE WALNUT *CHUTNEY– Super Easy! Peel an apple, and dice into small cubes and put in a bowl. Add in dried fruit and/or nuts of choice. I used walnuts, obviously. Add some agave and cinnamon. Pile on top of the pancakes.

*”Chutneys” are usually made with vinegar, so I am sort of lying by calling it that, but you get the idea.

Belated Mother’s Day: Three Generations Get Sandwiches

My mother and I went to Doylestown, PA this Saturday to visit my grandmother and spend some quality time together since we didn’t get to see each other on Mother’s Day. My Mom is, and has always been, my biggest supporter. (As the mother of an only child, she has always said “I guess I did it right the first time!”)

My Gram could be Betty White’s sister in terms of personality, even though she always get’s stopped by people to be told she looks like Barbara Bush. (For the record, she is not a fan of the Bush family, and I an empathize because people say I remind them of Sarah Palin. We should tour together.)

BONUS: Hilarious video of my Gram in all of her glory below!

Here’s how we spent part of our day, including getting lunch at a great little lunch spot with excellent sandwiches:

My mom got to my place and brought these lovely lilacs from her yard at home in Wilkes Barre, PA. We have always had lilacs at every house we lived in while I was growing up. They smell wonderful and make me nostalgic.

My mom got a new car that looks like an avocado – I’m jealous, it’s so cute! It also has this compartment that holds drinks and is REFRIGERATED. Fascinating.

VIDEO! Gram tries, and fails, to buckle herself into the back seat. This is a little snippet of what spending a day with her is like.

In downtown Doylestown we went to lunch at a place called Lilly’s.  Super-cute inside, everything made with fresh quality ingredients, amazing unlimited fresh brewed unsweetened tea, and hearty sandwiches.

I got one called the Andrew Wyeth, which was a homemade vegan burger topped with zucchini, artichoke, greens, tomato and a white bean spread on pumpkin seed bread.

It took Gram a while to decide what to get. It’s okay because she dressed like a sea captain. Ahoy! 

Fact: Several years ago she decided she would only wear striped shirts so if she spills something on herself it won’t be as noticeable. Very clever.

Walking to the car I found this happy sidewalk chalk graffiti. YAY! indeed.

We took Gram grocery shopping. It lasted over… two… hours… To keep myself occupied, I found amusement in weird food. Behold: Lunch meat ends. Blarrrggg.

It was great getting to see two ladies, and without both of them I wouldn’t be here! I love you both so very much, thanks for the great day.

When I got home my stomach hurt from laughing.

GET FRESH WITH ME: Food Documentary Screening + Discussion

Today is the FIRST day of the new Farmers Market at SteelStacks on Southside Bethlehem! If you’re not feeling sure about going, let me just say this:

Among the vendors listed is Balasia. Bam. See you there, yes?

 Also: an organic and fair trade coffee and tea vendor, Easton Salsa Company (how can a condiment be so good!?), several other vendors offering vegan goods, produce and vegetable plants, and a winery (hey now!) to name a few.

It’s from 3pm-7pm. 

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! 

Inside Steelstacks cinema is the screening of Fresh, a food documentary about the contamination of food and agriculture, of how it became “profit over people”, how spraying chemicals on everything and  violently abusing animals became standard. Beyond the grim veil of all the things we’ve done to make such a mess, the film shows real life examples of people that have followed a new way (perhaps, more accurately, an old way) of doing things that doesn’t devastate the earth, animals, crops or people.

The film begins at 7:30pm, cost is $9.50 and there is a student discount. Discussion panelists include:  Dr. Megan Grega, the Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of the Kellyn Foundation, Brian Moyer, Scott Meyer.

 Scott Meyer is the author of a really neat book that, incidentally, I was just looking at two weeks ago without realizing we’d get to talk to him. The City Homesteader covers all essentials of urban farming and gardening, including DIY money saving (and earth saving) tips, and the book has a beautiful design. *It does contain non-vegan info like how to raise chickens and such, but you’re all adults and can decide what info is pertinent or not.

 SEE YOU THERE!