vegan thanksgiving for two

This year we decided to keep our Thanksgiving meal simple with 3 dishes: Wild Rice Stuffed Winter Squash, Curried Carrot Almond Soup, and a Simple Mixed Greens Salad. By incorporating a few of the same ingredients into all of the dishes, we were able to easily pair one wine with our entire dinner while maintaining the unique flavors of each dish.

The Curried Carrot Almond Soup is courtesy of Gourmet magazine:

get the recipe here

The next time I make this soup I will make a few alterations, including less ginger and much less water. We were hoping for a creamier consistency, which could be easily achieved by using 4 cups of Almond Milk and no water.

The Wild Rice and Stuffed Squash was my husband's own variation on several different recipes. The combination of savory and sweet flavors and the balance of so many different textures came together for the perfect autumn dish. We had a little bit of extra filling, which we had for lunch the following day...who says you need turkey sandwiches to enjoy Thanksgiving left overs?

Wild Rice Stuffed Winter Squash

2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
1/4 cup uncooked wild rice (we used the kind in a box with a seasoning packet)
1 1/3 cups water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbs Blackstrap molasses
2 stalks of celery, sliced
handful of dried fruit (we used raisins, prunes, dried apples, apricots, and pears)
handful of sliced almonds, toasted
handful of chopped onion

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sprinkle cut side of squash with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Arrange squash cut side down in a shallow baking dish lined with water.
Bake for about 30 minutes.

Add rice, seasoning packet, and water to a saucepan.
Once the rice has absorbed some of the water, add the remaining ingredients.
Continue cooking the rice as instructed on the packaging.

To serve, remove squash from oven and spoon the rice mixture into each squash cavity. Bon Appetit!

For our salad, we topped our mixed greens with toasted almonds and the same dried fruit we used in the squash.

We were so happy with this meal that I plan to serve it when my (non-veg) dad visits us for Christmas. I know he'll love it too, which gives us a great opportunity to illustrate how delicious vegan eating can be! I am thankful to have choices about what I put into my body and to have a partner who is always supportive and willing to try new things in the kitchen. Although this isn't the case for all of us, and wasn't always the case for me, introducing even one animal free dish into your family's holiday meals can have an impact on their perception of vegan food and get them thinking about what they're putting on their plate.

Happy Thanksgiving!


vegan quiche

There are admittedly some pretty bad vegan quiche recipes out there, but I think you’ll find that the following recipe is just right. Extra firm silken tofu provides a perfect texture for this dish, even for your dairy loving family and friends. I also used Ener-G egg replacer and found that the moisture from the tofu and the soymilk bind really well, so there is no need to add water. Of course, you can use any variation of vegetables that you prefer, but you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a full pound of vegetables. Once they cook down you’ll have a perfect amount of filling for your crust.

Vegan Quiche

1 Pre-made frozen pie crust*

1 head of Broccoli, chopped
1 handful of Mushrooms, diced**
2 handfuls of Spinach
1 medium sized Onion, chopped into 1” pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

12 oz Extra Firm Organic Silken Tofu***
¼ cup Organic Soymilk**
3 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1 ½ tsp Ener-G egg replacer powder
¼ tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Tahini
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard (optional)
Dash salt
Dash pepper

*There are plenty of brands that make dairy free frozen pie crusts, just check the ingredients on the packaging.
**Even if you’re tempted to grab portabellas at the store (like we often are), remember that white button mushrooms are super rich in dietary fiber like chitin, which lowers cholesterol, and beta-glucan, which stimulates T-cell production and boosts your immune system. White buttons are also rich in protein and unsaturated fatty acids.
***Several very toxic pesticides are used to grow conventional soybeans, so be sure to use organic tofu and soymilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Pre-bake the pie crust for 12 minutes.
While the crust is baking, sauté the mushrooms and broccoli in olive oil until just tender.
Set mushrooms and broccoli aside in a mixing bowl.
Add a little more oil to the pan and sauté the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent.
Add the mushrooms and broccoli back to the pan.
Add spinach and continue heating vegetables until the spinach wilts.
Combine the rest of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
In a mixing bowl, combine the vegetables with the tofu mixture and stir until all vegetables are evenly coated.
Pour the mixture into the partially baked pie crust.
Continue to bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes.
Brush the top of the quiche with olive oil ½ way through cooking.
Let the quiche sit for at least 5 minutes before cutting.

This recipe makes 10 slices of quiche.
Nutritional Information for 1 slice of Vegan Quiche:
Calories: 200.0
Total Fat: 12.2 g
Saturated Fat: 2.3 g
Sodium: 140.0 mg
Total Carbs: 16.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g
Sugars: 1.0 g
Protein: 6.0 g


animal vegetable miracle

Barbara Kingsolver’s 2007 Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – A Year of Food Life promotes a non-vegan approach to sustainability, environmentalism, the humane treatment of animals, and health. This love story between Kingsolver’s family and local food follows a year-long “experiment” in which the Kingsolver-Hopps consume only what can be found within 100 miles of their Appalachian home. They do make a few exceptions for items like coffee and olive oil, but the majority of what they eat comes from their own back yard. Intimately knowing the source of our food is empowering and important for supporting independent growers with sound practices, ensuring the quality of the food we eat, and avoiding the massive amount of fossil fuels used to transport non-local foods. Kingsolver’s effortless descriptions of planting heirloom seeds, laboriously tending to her garden, harvesting beautiful, organic produce, and canning it to sustain her family through the winter made me want to put on my gardening gloves and dig in.

As I’ve mentioned before, our back yard is less than ideal for a garden. When we first moved into this house we spent hours picking up trash and broken glass from the property. Now, over a year later, bottle caps and bits of glass still surface every time it rains. Yet, I can’t shake the desire to grow my own food. Clearly, many of us do not have the luxury of Kingsolver to dedicate most of our waking hours to gardening and writing about our results. However, there are plenty of other ways to get local food, even if it’s not as local as your back yard.

Visiting the Eat Well Guide at http://www.eatwellguide.org is an easy way to search for businesses in your area that carry or produce local food. The site even allows you to narrow your search to restaurants, co-ops, stores, farms, etc. so that you can find just what you’re looking for.

There are also plenty of great resources about urban gardening and gardening in small spaces, if you don’t live on garden-friendly land. Ultimately, we plan to move to a different home where we have plenty of space for a garden. In the mean time, I hope to try a few plants in the windowsill.

Kingsolver also raises and slaughters her own Heritage turkeys, which is clearly a positive alternative to supporting the producers of genetically modified, tortured, deprived, growth hormone and antibiotic stuffed Butterball birds. If you eat animals, seeking out local farms that raise heritage turkeys in the way Kingsolver does and choosing to support them rather than the national corporations who run thousands of factory farms, is a great way vote for sustainability with your wallet. Companies are only as strong as consumers allow them to be. I hope that curling up with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle will inspire you to challenge your own consumption patterns and perhaps, you’ll find Kingsolver’s narrative to be as dreamy as I did.


alternatives to chicken eggs

Millions of hens, or “layers” as the factory farming industry has re-named these animals to reflect the machine-like ill treatment they receive inside of CAFOs, are kept in confined spaces so small they cannot spread their wings, explore their surroundings, or comfortably lay down. Their genetics have been altered so that they continue to produce eggs on minimal food and water and when under maximum stress. CAFO operators create an artificial environment, including periods of starvation, that forces the hens to molt and lay more eggs, even when their bodies would not naturally do so. Their beaks, which are full of sensitive nerve endings, are regularly seared off without anesthetic and their feet grow around the wiring in their cages because of a lack of movement.

Even if you want to disregard the animal cruelty that goes into the carton of eggs you see on the grocery store shelf, the health concerns of consuming eggs cannot be ignored. One egg from a factory farm “layer” contains two thirds of the cholesterol recommended for our daily intake. Of course, we have to take into account the fact that nutritional recommendations come from the USDA, which is largely comprised of individuals who have a vested interest in the success of the beef, poultry, and dairy industries. Barbara Kingsolver argues that regular chickens, without genetic modifications, who are raised humanely on small farms in open pastures, given the freedom to behave as chickens do, and are fed sufficient amounts of healthy food produce eggs with a significantly lower level of cholesterol and the cholesterol they do contain is more “good cholesterol” than bad (1). This may very well be true. If you live in an area where you can access eggs like these (many of us probably do and can), perhaps this is not a bad choice. However, there are plenty of cholesterol free, hormone free, and animal free, alternatives to eggs.

For recipes like quiche or scrambles, firm or extra-firm tofu works very well. Adding turmeric and nutritional yeast can give the tofu a more egg-like appearance and flavor. I’ll be sure to include a really yummy tofu quiche recipe soon.

Ener-G Egg Replacer is a great option when baking from scratch. One Egg = 1 1/2 tsp Egg Replacer to 2 tbsp of water. Ener-G does not work for scrambles or in pasta dishes, although we have tried and tried. Stick to baking with Ener-G.

Applesauce or other pureed fruits also work well as an egg alternative when baking. One Egg = ¼ cup of applesauce.

Ground flax seed is a great alternative for baking when mixed with water. Plus, flax contains lots of Omega-3s and fiber. Some suggest that it even helps to reduce your risk for heart disease and diabetes. One Egg = one Tbsp ground flax + 3 Tbsp water.

The flax-water mixture works great as a binder in cookies. I adapted the following recipe from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s “The Joy of Vegan Baking.” My husband is a natural when it comes to baking and is convinced that dairy products are necessary when making biscuits, pie crusts, cakes, and cookies. When I first brought home “The Joy of Vegan Baking,” he gave me a look that said “vegan baking” is an oxymoron. We regularly make vegan recipes together for lunch and dinner, but when I started to become interested in baking vegan treats, he smiled and said “You should leave the baking around here to me.” Needless to say, we’ve discovered some wonderful recipes in this book that we both enjoy. He especially likes this one.

Oatmeal Cookies

2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
6 Tbsp water

1 cup Earth Balance non dairy butter
1 ½ cups firmly packed organic light brown sugar
¼ cup organic Turbinado sugar
2 tsp organic vanilla extract

1 cup organic unbleached all-purpose flower
¾ cup organic whole wheat flower
1 cup oat bran
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp organic cinnamon
½ tsp organic nutmeg

1 ½ cups rolled oats
1 cup organic raisins
½ cup organic walnuts

Although I have made the recipe true to the book before, in an effort to make a healthier cookie I substituted whole wheat flour, added more oat bran rather than oats for an increased amount of fiber, cut down on the salt, and added walnuts for the omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whip together the flaxseed and water until the consistency is thick and creamy. I use an immersion blender, which makes this process quick and easy. Voila, a dairy free binder!

Mix together the Earth Balance, sugars, vanilla and the flaxseed mixture until well blended.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, oat bran, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Stir in oats, raisins, and walnuts.

Scoop the dough onto a non-stick cookie sheet into ½ inch think rounds.

Bake 15 minutes. Let the cookies firm up for a few minutes after removing them from the oven prior to transferring them to a wire cooling rack.

I’ve tried baking plenty of vegan treats, and many of them do have a “substitute” taste. However, these oatmeal cookies are just right. The recipe will make 3 dozen, so it’s an easy way to share a vegan treat with your non-vegan friends and family members. Sharing food with each other creates important social bonds and cultural traditions, which is part of the reason why many people find it so difficult to “give up” animal products. “What’s Thanksgiving without a turkey?” one might ask. Celebrating Thanksgiving without supporting an industry that is in the business of mass animal torture and wreaking havoc on the environment is thoughtful and important. Being able to incorporate vegan foods into events with non-vegans can help create new traditions and can open conversations about alternatives to eating meat. Try it!

1. “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” Barbara Kingsolver

spicy sweet potato enchiladas

When we were on our honeymoon this summer we ate at an amazing little Spanish-Indian fusion place in Sausalito called Avatar's. The owner prepared a special curried pumpkin enchilada for us and it was like nothing I've ever tasted. When we returned from California, I immediately started looking for recipies to imitate this dish. Although the recipe I decided on doesn't involve any curry, I had to try it.

I was really impressed with the results! We both love spicy food so we added Habanero peppers from the Farmer's Market with the onions and garlic and they gave it such a good kick, but still not too spicy.

Recently we discovered Yves Veggie Chorizo, which has a very similar flavor and texture to Soyrizo but is much much lower calorie and lower fat, so we used this instead. The whole recipe, including the prep, sauteing, and baking took almost 1 1/2 hours...so make sure you have plenty of time to make this one. Next time we are going to try soaking the sweet potato in warm water or baking them first...I'm not sure if this will give them the right consistency, but hopefully it will save us a little time. The potatoes seemed to take a really long time to soften. BUT, it was worth the wait. Half way through our meal my husband thought to put fresh cilantro on top..which we're going to do from the start next time. I'm so glad we have plenty of left overs!

Spicy Sweet Potato Enchiladas

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sized organic onion, diced
4 cloves organic garlic, minced
1-2 organic Serrano, Jalapeno, or Habenero peppers, diced*
1 organic sweet potato, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 can organic black beans, drained
1/2 of a 12oz jar of organic roasted red peppers, chopped*
1/2 package Veggie Chorizo
1 tablespoon organic cumin
1 package corn tortillas
1 24oz can spicy vegan red enchilada sauce
shredded vegan cheese (I like Follow your Heart Monterey Jack)

*If you're not crazy about spending the extra money on organic ingredients, peppers should be an exception. Conventional peppers contain some of the highest pesticide levels of any produce. If you have trouble finding organic roasted red peppers, you can easily roast fresh red peppers by cutting them in half, putting them under the broiler until the skins turn black, and carefully peeling the skin away.

Saute the olive oil, chopped onion, garlic, and hot peppers until the onion is translucent. Then add the sweet potatoes (which you may have already soaked in warm water or pre-baked).

After the sweet potatoes are soft, add the black beans, roasted red peppers, Veggie Chorizo, and cumin. Stir all ingredients thoroughly & let everything simmer on low until the beans are soft.

Pour enough red sauce into the pan to coat the bottom.

Fill & roll your corn tortillas. (It helps to microwave the corn tortillas for about 30 seconds or warm them in the toaster oven before you roll them so that they won't break.)

Fill the pan with the rolls, and top with the rest of your sauce. Sprinkle vegan "cheese" on the top. Bake for about 30 minutes.

the bad vegan

I don’t remember exactly what happened that fueled my decision to become a vegetarian, but since I made the choice my life has changed in ways that go well beyond how I decide what to put on my plate. Over time my motive has expanded from basic ideals about health, longevity, and having humane relationships with animals to my knowledge of specific facts about the negative effects eating animals can have on one’s body, the environment, and the animals who live to die for human consumption. What effect does factory farming have on the earth, the farmers, the people who work on the factory line, the local businesses who chose not to carry factory farmed products, the animals who are raised in confined, abusive environments, or the children who eat the “wholesome” meat that has to be cooked just so in order to minimize the risk of bacterial infections and will still raise their cholesterol levels and cause cardiac problems later in life? Of course, not all “food” animals are raised in CAFOs and not all people who make hamburgers from the beef they buy at Wal-Mart will die of heart failure. Sadly, it is fair to say that a large percentage of them will. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (a division of the CDC), over 287 thousand people in the United States die of heart failure every year. Hospitalizations due to heart failure have climbed to a rate almost 300% higher than the rate of heart failure related hospital visits 30 years ago (1). Correspondingly, the number of factory farmed animals produced and purchased by Americans has increased at an even more alarming rate (2). Could there be a connection?

On my journey as a vegetarian, I have learned and continue to discover the benefits of eating organic, sustainable, and locally grown and produced foods. My diet has become so much more than eating meals without meat. However, being environmentally aware, health conscious, and compassionate toward all animals is about making choices – choices about what we put in our bodies every day. This is where I feel that my choices fail to directly coincide with my beliefs. All of my knowledge about how our diet can impact animals, the environment, and our bodies has lead me to practice just that – a diet. The thought process I go through when choosing what to eat is much more about what not to eat. A few years ago I made a list in my journal of my then current eating habits. I had noticed the positive effects my diet was having on my figure and wanted to record how I did it. The list reads like this:
no soda
no fast food
no fried foods
no cream based anything
no meat
no eggs
no artificial sweetener
only whole grain/whole wheat
fresh fruit every day
fresh vegetables every day (always include greens and at least one other vegetable)
soy protein every day
plenty of fiber
as much natural, organic, preservative free as possible
and plenty of water

At the height of my watch-what-I-eat-to-keep-myself-thin phase, anything processed or sugary or high calorie (even if they were healthy calories), never found its way into my body. At this point, I was still occasionally eating fish and had not made an effort to completely stop consuming dairy. Once I made the decision a few years later to try a vegan diet (which I still fail to maintain completely), some of the foods I would have never touched when I was incredibly calorie conscious were now exciting to try because they were “vegan.” In short, I was making healthier choices when I was thinking clearly about what was going into my body rather than concentrating on what to avoid.

Luckily, I live in a town where the local bakeries and restaurants often have vegan options on the menu. Anything labeled “vegan” qualifies, in my head, as a food that meets all of the exclusions on my diet list. If I became a vegan to align my practices with my values about the environment, animal welfare, human rights, and personal health, making consumption choices based on nothing more than a “vegan” label is hypocritical to say the least. I’m a bad vegan.

A vegan cookie at the local bakery, for example, is full of vegetable shortening and soy, which means that it may have a higher caloric, fat, and pesticide level than some other non-vegan options. The southern cuisine place down the street from our house serves plenty of vegan items, including a delicious tofu option to top off salads or substitute for eggs in a scramble. Again, because this is a “special” vegan option, I often opt to add it to my plate when my husband and I dine there. I’m fairly certain that the tofu in question is soaked in soy sauce and then deep fried. The amount of sodium and oil trapped inside of each little soy cube should be enough to make anyone reconsider whether this is a healthy option. But, hey, its vegan!

I strongly believe that making even one positive decision one time is better than living oblivious to the impact our consumption choices have on all life. Even my Wal-Mart shopping, McDonald’s supporting brother-in-law (who I’m pretty sure thinks I am a radical hippie flower child weirdo) makes a point to buy dish soap whose parent company donates money to save animals who have been caught in oil spills. Yes, there are other consumption patterns he follows that leave much to be desired, but this one choice that he makes does make a positive impact. Ignoring the small choices we make, even when our overall choices are not environmentally sound or health conscious, is a mistake. In fact, praising each other when we actually think about what kind of companies our decisions support can encourage us to make more positive choices as consumers in the future.

Anyone who practices a vegetarian, vegan, or green lifestyle has experienced criticism for not being vegetarian/vegan/green enough. Those who do not practice these lifestyles, and even some who do, often use this kind of criticism as a mechanism to justify their own consumption patterns. If you point out to a vegan friend that the gummy bear he is eating is made with gelatin so (gasp!) he isn’t truly a vegan, are you saying this because you are actually concerned for him and his wellbeing? Or are you justifying the lack of healthy choices you make by pointing out that you believe no one can really live up to the ideals of your vegan friend? Silly vegans.

Although I know that many of the consumption choices I make are positive and that the diet I practice now vs. the diet I maintained as a child is certainly better all around, I am left feeling that there is a disconnect between the knowledge that has shaped my values and my daily practices which (mostly) uphold them. By sharing my thoughts here, I plan to hold myself accountable for my knowledge equaling my values equaling my practices. Being a vegan is not just about being thin, having low cholesterol, maintaining heart health, supporting farmers who make production decisions based on values I share, not supporting an industry that systematically tortures millions of living beings, avoiding pesticides, chemicals, antibiotics, and growth hormones, decreasing my ecological footprint, supporting crop diversity, supporting a living wage and worker’s rights, or using what Michael Pollan refers to as “Table Fellowship” as an opportunity to share knowledge about the impact our consumption choices have on all living things (3). Being vegan is about the intersection of all of these values. Starting today, I’m going to begin being vegan enough for me.

Through writing this blog, I plan to share my experiences as a vegan including yummy cruelty free recipes, creative ways to share meals with non-vegan friends and family, book suggestions for anyone who eats food, information about local and national companies with outstanding business practices, and progress on my garden (which we plan to start as we move to a new home without a landfill for a backyard). This is my life as The Bad Vegan.

1. “Heart Failure Fact Sheet” Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/library/fs_heart_failure.htm

2. “Factory Farming” Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factory_farming

3. The Omnivores Dilema, Michael Pollan