LADIES IN THE KITCHEN: Cooking video with The Blissful Chef, Manifest Vegan and Save the Kales!

By the end of this post, you’ll see a video and the recipe for these tasty goodies: Popeye Cakes with Avocado Dipping Sauce. But I need to tell you about some great girls first…

Popeye Cakes, photo by Allyson Kramer

Popeye Cakes, photo by Allyson Kramer

Last week I went to Philly to meet in person (finally!) Allyson Kramer of Manifest vegan, now a Philly resident, and Christy Morgan, “The Blissful Chef” on her Blissful Bites book tour as she was traveling around from Texas.

This day meant an awful lot to me. Both of these brilliant women have played a rather large role in my own cooking knowledge and inspiration on a very basic level, but I have always admired them for being awesome vegan role models in their own right. (Yeah, I said role models, ladies!)

Allyson and Dot

Two summers ago when this blog went under a bit of an attack (to be fair, it needed to happen and that   instance taught me a lot), Allyson found my email address and wrote the most beautiful, supportive email. It      meant so much to me at the time that someone reached out to share her own story of a similar issue, how to deal with it, to remember not everyone thinks about things the same way, and NOT to be deterred from moving forward. I had just read about her and her work in VegNews magazine and she was somewhat of a celebrity in my eyes, and she was writing to little ol’ me?

It’s been nearly two years since that first email, and Allyson has been around since then to be my sounding board and a point of graceful insight when things in “the vegan community” can get confusing or disillusioning. Many times I’ve hastily written to her, a knot in my stomach, and an email 18 paragraphs long of rambling and spelling errors, and she always comes back with incredible insight, even if it’s just to say she’s felt the same way.

None of that even begins to touch on her work. I have an older interview with her HERE, though some information is different now, she’s had much more recognition for her work, and her book Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats is coming out in June. You’ll be buying it, riiighhht?

Christy Morgan cooking demo

Christy Morgan is a powerhouse. I was surprised when I met her to see how tiny she is (I’m taller than someone, what?!) because she operates on this go-go-go level. She is a trained macrobiotic chef and has participated in countless cooking demonstrations on TV, at Vegfests, and most recently at the super-big-deal IACP NYC event.  She teaches cooking classes and can do nutrition consultations over the phone, so if you’re looking to work with a true professional, give her a call.

Blissful Bites is a gorgeous full-color book that teaches basics like knife skills, to the simple “what’s the difference between vegetarian and vegan?”, and each recipe has notes to let you know if it’s low oil, gluten free (most are), can be made in less than 45 minutes, etc… It’s broken down by season, THEN by type of dish within the season. So… it’s Spring, and you’re hungry for lunch– Boom. A ton of recipe ideas. How cool is that?

Brunette Vegan Cooks with Glasses club, first meeting.

Christy offered so much insight on book deals, touring, working with clients and people of all backgrounds and skill levels, and “a typical day in the business”. I don’t know if this girl ever stops working! She’s a great example of how hard work pays off.

OKAY, I’M DONE GUSHING FOR NOW! On to the recipe!

When I got to Allyson’s house I had just got done hugging everyone and we had a few rounds of “Oh my gosh, we’re all hanging out together!”, we immediately got to work on making some lunch. Allyson had a well-stocked fridge with every vegetable you could think of, so we started throwing things together and came up with what Christy has dubbed: Popeye Cakes!  (They are green and kind of tasted like spinach, despite not using any spinach!)

Here’s a video and the recipe (taken from The Blissful Chef Blog):

Popeye Cakes with Curry Avocado Sauce
(makes about 14 cakes with 2 cups sauce)

Popeye Cakes

Toasted sesame oil
1 bunch chard, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated
4 baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander
1 29oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoon flax meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown rice flour

Preparation

Heat up a medium skillet with sesame oil then saute veggies with spices for a few minutes. Cover with lid and stir occasionally. In the food processor, blend chickpeas with mustard, vinegar, flax, and salt until no big chunks remain. Add sauteed veggies and pulse those into the chickpeas until well combined. Place mixture in a large bowl then mix in flour until well combined.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with SIlpat or parchment paper. Wet your hands and form cakes about 2 inches in diameter. Place on cookie sheet and continue until all mixture is made into cakes. Bake for 30 minutes, then flip and bake for 20 more minutes. Meanwhile make your sauce!

Curry Avocado Sauce

1 small bunch kale, steamed
2 avocado, pitted
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 lime, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 cup fresh dill
1 teaspoon white miso
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

Preparation

Place all ingredients in a food processor, and blend until smooth and creamy, about a minute. Scrap the edges of the bowl a few times to incorporate all the ingredients. Serve on top of Popeye Cakes or as a dip with corn chips!

–      –      –     –     –     –       –      –

Thank you so much, Allyson and Christy, for being friends and inspirations. I’m on a path that has no clear direction but forward, and there aren’t a lot of people I can turn to for personal experience and advice, but you have filled that void and I’m thankful and proud of you both.

Thanks to Kate for taping the video and taking photos so we can always remember this day!

The only still photo of the three of us, haha.

Allyson’s blog Manifest Vegan, and Christy Morgan’s website The Blissful Chef.

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Anxiety, Marilyn Monroe, Eating Breakfast and Embracing the Process

Maybe it’s the gray overcast days that come along with December, but I’ve been more instrospective than usual (and unfortunately, lazier). As someone who has a brain constantly thinking, thinking, overthinking, this can be a blessing and a curse.

Journal.

Anxiety can be summed up, in simplest terms, as worrying about the future or what could happen without a solid foundation or evidence that it will happen. Creating “what if” scenarios that cause sadness or hurt is a strange and unwelcome past time for someone who, really truly in the core of my guts and soul, is an optimist.

For every hopeful person excited to make (and keep? fingers crossed? invocation of willpower?) New Year Resolutions, there is someone saying “I don’t need to wait til the New Year, I just change something any time I need to.” While I subscribe to the latter sentiment, I also look forward to the collective fresh start. When time rolls into a New Year – this thing that will happen, worldwide, whether we want it or not – it’s one of the few small things that every single person on earth experiences together. 

That is truly inspiring. It’s a positive energy , an ambient background that hums and buzzes, lending encouragement to us which in turns let’s us give that support back to others.

The trouble with worrying, aside from the obvious wasted time on things that don’t exist, is it takes you away from the present moment and past accomplishments. If we can pause for reflection, we can search the last year and recognize how far we’ve come, the lessons learned, the people met, the goals achieved.

Maybe it’s the word “resolution” that doesn’t sit well with people. Last night on facebook, a friend posted that she prefers to set goals. I like this thought. A resolution made seems a bit concrete. If you resolve to eat healthier, it’s just going to take one piece of cake before you feel like you’ve failed or broken this promise of betterment. But a goal… that is expansive. “I will eat healthier” allows for cake, for the occasional vegan buffet, for the cozy winter night when you woopsies! finish off the whole bottle of wine. Because you will get a lot more chances.

Last week, I saw the film “My Week with Marilyn”, the story of one man’s week spent in a friendship and love affair with Marilyn Monroe (true story) while she was shooting a film. I was excited to see the lovely Michelle Williams transformed into Marilyn. (I’m not someone who follows actors or actresses, have no celebrity crushes, or know much about pop culture, BUT Michelle Williams always gives the most fascinating interviews in magazines and is a woman I look up to as someone classy, intelligent and poised in a field that gives a lot of credit folks who have the opposite of those traits.)

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I didn’t expect to be so emotionally moved by the film. I had no idea the personal internal struggle Marilyn dealt with, locking herself in her room to cry or sleep off drugs, her desire to be a perfect actress, the pressure of living up to the idea of a perfect actress that everyone saw her as. Marilyn Monroe was actually “Marilyn Monroe” – a role she played in public. A deliberate character. In one moving scene of the film, she is walking with Colin (love interest) through a castle, marveling at the library and architecture, the two of them having rare intimate time together. She comes down a hallway to find all the servents of the castle waiting for her as they heard Marilyn Monroe was there! As she moved down the hall approaching the crowd, she whispers to Colin, “Should I be her?”  And as she descends the stairs to the crowd of fans, she does so with a signature wiggle while blowing lipsticked kisses.

I had a sinking feeling the rest of the day, and I’ve thought a lot about the film since. How can it be that a true icon, arguably one of the most beautiful and beloved women to have ever lived, a celebrity with fans who span generations, could feel so lousy about herself? How can someone who seems to have everything feel like nothing? 

It got me thinking about the strange duality between who we are in our private lives versus who we show people we are in our public lives.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If everyone believes in you but you don’t believe in yourself, does it matter?

The goals I have set for the year include many things. Some simple: make more crafts and handmade items, eat breakfast every day. Some complex: Maybe to take on the responsibility of becoming a dog-Mom; to write a book.

Though the main goal is to focus less on the ultimate outcome and just enjoy the process, no matter how mundane or overwhelming the process may be. I want to slow down and deliberately focus on the process itself – if it’s cooking, stop rushing to chop and boil and assemble and instead notice the textures and flavors, transformations and shapes. Use time folding laundry (actually fold laundry) to listen to an inspiring podcast or indulge in a guilty-pleasure TV show, without feeling guilty. Write a book without thinking about finding an agent, will it get published, how many rejections will I get, how many people could go online and leaving horrible reviews where they will exist on the internet forever…. JUST WRITE THE BOOK. None of those things can even happen unless I write first.

Today's reading.

This morning I woke feeling over whelmed (as I often do first thing in the morning), the vastness of a day off and the time to be filled and spent well. But then I remembered to enjoy the process… so I’m spending the day reading inspiring books, cleaning the house and planning for a shake-up in the decor (I am finding myself more and more drawn to simple, old-timey domestic looks and not so much the harsh lines and colors of modern design… how things change!), cooking a thick stew that can boil on the stove for hours filling the house with the delicious scent of a home-cooked meal. And for today, that will be enough.

Day 1 of remembering to eat breakfast: successful.