SEPTEMBER SOMETHINGS: The Start of Autumn, Bethlehem Vegfest, and a Writing Retreat

This morning I woke up to a familiar feeling: that first September morning that feels comparatively cold, my body heat cocooned under the comforter, the dog serving as a fuzzy makeshift foot-warmer.

The Fall season is upon us, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I know about science and weather and seasons, but every year at this time, it feels like a gift just for me.

I never get sick of photos of pumpkin drinks and flat boots. Post away. Here's my first contribution.

I never get sick of photos of pumpkin drinks and flat boots. Post away. Here’s my first contribution.

The other day I read something about September being “an alternative New Year’s Day” as a time for reflection and transformation, personal promises and fresh starts. This resonates so deeply with me. A month ago we had a week of chillier, end-of-summer temperatures and I swapped my summer dresses out of my closet, trading them for cardigans and boots. I’ve sorted my book collection so the creepy, haunting novels are on the top shelf, Shirley Jackson and Thomas Tryon ready for consumption. (Surely I’m not the only one to read fiction according to season?). I sleep in short sleeves knowing that on gloriously loungey mornings like this one, I will wake up just a bit cold and get to burrow inside the bed a little deeper.

Let me tell you about a few things:

Bethlehem Vegfest is tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 7th) from 11am-6pm. Has it really been a year? This year, raise your hands to the sky and rejoice because it is (finally! FINALLY!) all vegan, just as it should be. It’s been rebuilt a bit on the inside, making the festival a little smaller but more… Vegfesty. I wish for all the speakers, vendors and patrons to have a truly wonderful time and to continue to keep the festival a positive, friendly, and inspiring event for all. Go here to view all the details.  (And I was quoted for a little newspaper article, thanks Express Times.)

stk vegfest

Later that night, I’m heading to Philly for the Emmys! Very excited about my beautiful dress, though competitions make me sick to my stomach and I’ll feel better when it’s over.  Hopefully Matt will tell tales of new fatherhood and we can talk about how his one year old daughter and I get same-level excited about Ikea selling giant plush vegetables with faces, or something.

And then! It’s off to a Solo Writer’s Retreat.

Sunday morning, I’m smooching Ryan goodbye as he heads to Canada for work (he’s going to the Toronto International Film Festival, poor thing, what grueling work) and I head to northeast Pennsylvania to drop off Chubby dog at my Mom’s house, then continue on to a small cabin in the woods.

“Writers have long known that the most reliable cure [for writer’s block] is to get away from regular life and in a different and undemanding environment, simply allow the words to come. They can be awful. They will be awful. But out of awful comes literature — or, in my case, self-help books that, if I do my job right, read as well as literature.” – Victoria Moran

You see, for months I’ve been talking about secluding myself in a cabin so I can get away from obligations (and, um, the internet) and just write. I got the kick-in-the-butt I needed after reading this blog series from Victoria Moran about going on her own writing retreat to work on a new book proposal. Maybe it’s the romance of the idea, or that I know I tend to get distracted at home, but I’ve found a perfect little cabin just for me and whatever woodland creatures I meet and befriend.

It’s on a lake. It has a fireplace. And electricity to keep the computer charged. Beyond that, I’m just taking some reference books, good campfire food, and my coffee pot. Maybe some rations for vegan s’mores.

As you can see, this is a popular idea.

writingcabin

I’m turning 30 at the end of the month, and that milestone birthday is deserving of it’s own reflection. I don’t have a lot of the things our culture has determined you are “supposed to” have to mark adulthood: marriage, “normal job”, home ownership, a child. Though, I’ve learned so much about myself and if I want, or will ever want, those things. What does it mean when society places so much value and credible experience on things that may not be a part of someone’s life? What do I want my life to look like?

What do you want your life to look like? Have you ever thought about it? Really?

I hadn’t. A few years ago I was in my therapist’s office and he said, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and it was like a boulder was thrown at my head as I realized I actually hadn’t thought about it before. At that time, in the middle of deep depression, living day-to-day was enough. I’d wake up every morning with paralyzing anxiety because I didn’t know how to fill the hours of the day, painfully aware that I didn’t have a sense of purpose, and desperately wanting to find one.

Snoozing dogs = four-legged mental therapy.

Snoozing dogs = four-legged mental therapy.

The novel idea that in five years time I could potentially have any life/lifestyle I’d want (theoretically, within the realm of reality and not “Become Queen of the Jungle”, or invent the new Facebook) was impossible to wrap my head around. It may have sounded simple, but in that hour I found I’d be very content and truly happy if my life involved: an inspiring apartment, a loving relationship based on honesty and respect in which we maintained separate identities while supporting each other’s dreams, a small circle of friends you call when your world falls apart/when your world explodes with joy, a dog (absolutely), to do work that leaves the world better than I found it and goes beyond “me”, and… to write.

So.

Off I go to get out of my head… or perhaps, into my head. I’ve always thought it easier to figure things out with a blanket across my shoulders and a campfire flickering through the trees.

xo Jaime K

living forest

living forest

EPISODE 3: Vegetarian Summerfest, Graphic Design, Sandwiches and Raw Pie

I hope you enjoy Episode 3 of Save the Kales!

Just a heads up! These sandwiches have a lot of components – you can make most of them the day before, then simply assemble and broil when you are ready to eat. Once you know how to make the different elements, you can use them in other recipes, of course.

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In this episode, view the “kale cam” video diary from my attendance at Vegetarian Summerfest 2012, including clips from some of the most inspirational authors, speakers, and activists in the plant-based movement.

Back at the kitchen, we make one heck of a sandwich: tempeh bacon, caramelized onion, roasted pears and a walnut-carrot spread topped with melted vegan cheese and broiled to a gooey perfection. Follow up this sweet and savory dish with a healthy, ripe raw berry pie using three kinds of fresh berries and an almond-coconut crust.

Finally, meet Save the Kales! graphic designer (among other things!) Christian Weber as he shows off the Bethlehem Vegfest 2012 posters.

Note: I will be posting longer clips from some of the talks/speakers very soon, as well as a full Summerfest wrap-up. Stay tuned!

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Tempeh Bacon

  • 1 block tempeh
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp tamari (or soy sauce or Bragg’s)
  • 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
Cut tempeh into very thin strips (use the whole block). Put the strips in a container with a lid. Use remaining ingredients to mix marinade in a bowl, then pour over tempeh. Put the lid on the container and led it marinate in the fridge, turning the container every few hours or overnight. When you are ready to make tempeh bacon, spray some cooking spray in a pan and add the bacon so it’s not overlapping (may not be able to do it all at once) so the bottom will brown and crisp, then flip over so the other side side gets brown.
Carrot Walnut + Cinnamon Spread
  •  1/2 cup carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar

Put carrots in the oven at 350 until they are soft, about 25 mins. Set aside to cool. Add all ingredients to a food processor, stopping to scrape down the sides, and blend until a thick spread is made. (Add a little water if you need to move things along in the processor.)

Caramelized Onions

  • large white onion (you can use red!)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • dash of salt

Cut onion in half, then thinly slice into half-moons. Toss in a pan with olive oil. Put on the stove on a high heat until just starting to brown, then bring the heat low. (You want them to brown, not burn.) Stir in the pan every few minutes to slowly caramelize. Add the salt at 10 minutes of cooking. At about 30-40 minutes, a minute before you take the onions off the stove,  add the brown sugar to help caramelize and flavor onions. Take onions off the stove and set aside.

Browned Pears

  • 1 bosc pear, thinly sliced (remove seeds)
  • 1 tsp vegan butter

Put pears with butter on the stove on a medium heat until pears start to brown and get soft.

… FINISHING THE SANDWICH

  • nice bakery rolls (no eggs/milk!), sliced in half
  • Daiya mozzarella piled high on top of everything else!

Turn on the broiler. Put the bottoms of the rolls on a sheet pan and start building the sandwiches using all of the above components, topping with vegan shredded cheese. Put a nice smear of the sandwich spread on the top half of the rolls, and put those on the pan.  Put in the broiler for 3-4 minutes until cheese gets melty. Don’t burn the bread!

Tempeh bacon, caramelized onion and pear sandwich.

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CRUST
  • 2 cups soaked raw almonds (almonds soaked in water overnight)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
Add everything to a food processor and blend until crumbly and sticky. (You can use a little spray oil on your pie pan to help cut the slices out easier.) Push the crust into the pan, working it against the sides and bottom evenly.
FILLING
  • 2 cups berries of choice (mixed, all one kind, whatever! I used blueberries, blackberries and raspberries)
  • 1 cup frozen peaches
  • 1 Tbsp. agave or maple syrup
Put about 1 cup of berries aside so you can use them to top the pie! (Or omit this step.) Put the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth. Pour into the pie crust, and put into the fridge for a minimum of two hours (a few more is better). This will allow the berries to naturally gel together.
When you are ready to eat, toss the saved berries in a bowl with 1 tsp liquid sweetner and 1 tsp water to make a simple glaze to make them shiny, then top the pie with them before serving!

Raw triple berry pie with coconut almond crust.

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Bethlehem Vegfest will be held on Sept. 8th, 2012 from 11am-6pm on Bethlehem’s southside greenway! This is a FREE event with cooking demos, food, speakers, animal adoption groups, live music, a kid’s corner, vendors, and so much more.
Last year was the first event with over 10,000 (ten thousand!) attendees.  Stay updated by following the FACEBOOK PAGE and I’ll be sure to give more updates as it gets closer.

Bethlehem Vegfest 2012 poster by Christian Weber.