Posts Tagged ‘vegan’

This morning was a space of wonderful normalcy. My friend and I went down to Frenchtown to have brunch at a favorite restaurant, Lovin’ Oven. They serve the most consistently delicious food at truly reasonable prices, and sourced as much as possible from local farms.

The outdoor patio with umbrellas for shade, bright orange picnic tables, and lovely decor.

Eating outside felt so safe and comfortable – tables well-distanced, staff wearing masks, and menus available through a QR code on little cards on the table.

The lovely fresh flowers at each table, also grown locally.

I’ve been a fan of Lovin’ Oven from when I first moved into my little town fifteen years ago. They were located just a few blocks away, right next to the Delaware River, in a turn-of-the-century Victorian house. It was kind of crowded, but totally charming, and the kitchen, tiny. At some point, they moved to Frenchtown in much more spacious quarters, part of a converted warehouse.

This wall of Hindu statuary shields the patio from the road beyond. It was a fabulous find from the former store next door, Two Buttons.

What stayed the same in the move is the wonderful staff, always smiling, considerate, and kind, and, of course, the fabulous food which includes plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. Putting aside for the moment that I don’t eat meat, there is rarely anything on the Lovin’ Oven menu that I wouldn’t eat. How many places can you say that about?

Breakfast scramble – scrambled eggs with locally grown cherry tomatoes and sweet corn plus cheddar, and accompanied by roasted potatoes and oatmeal porridge bread.

It was a huge amount of food, and I already knew I’d be taking half of it home, especially if I might be considering dessert (yes, at that hour of the morning – too good to pass up.)

Vegan taco – fried plantains, refried beans, Rancheros sauce, roasted tofu, pickled red onions on a grilled corn tortilla.

My friend chose the vegan taco which was as wonderful as its presentation. She, too, took half of this mound of food home for later consumption.

Top shelf of homemade baked goods – muffins, scones, cookies – all made from scratch.

Another plus here is that they bake all their own delicious treats right there on the premises in small batches. Not for those watching their weight or sugar, but for every now and then, do we really care? The little shelf pictured above sits over the refrigerated case which holds such wonders as Key Lime Pie, Caramel Nut Tart, or what I had … pictured below.

Peanut butter pie – a whipped peanut butter silk pie sitting on top of chocolate ganache and a graham cracker crust – just heaven.

When my peanut butter pie arrived, I was honestly so excited I forgot all about photographing it! So I borrowed this from Lovin’ Oven’s Facebook page which I doubt the owner – who now knows me for 15 years – would mind. What a dream of a pie.

I am so happy that this restaurant made it through the pandemic. Julie developed a takeout menu for 3 times a week, and all the loyal LO fans came and kept them afloat. Coming back when they could actually, physically, open again was like old home week. Staff and diners all greeted one another like long lost friends.

I think when you’re are doing the right thing for the right reason you’ll make out OK. And I think they are proof of that. They just do everything right. It’s always a pleasure to be there. Glad we all got to see you on the other side. And thanks.

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You know how you go to a restaurant for a while, then kind of tire of it, even if it is really nice? Revisiting said restaurant – The Clean Plate in Clinton (NJ) – is what happened recently when a  lovely new client, who happens to be a vegan, and I planned to get together. I am admittedly a wannabe (but still aspiring) vegan, but almost completely vegetarian. The Clean Plate is so named because it serves really clean, often organic, and – whenever possible – locally sourced food, with plenty of choices for both vegetarians and vegans. The menu includes locally raised beef and chicken, as well. Anyone who wants to eat healthy can find something delicious here.

I also often think I’d like to take photos of my wonderful food when I eat out, but somehow it never happens. Happily, Danielle did take a photo to show her daughter, who always likes to see what Mommy eats when she is dining away from home.

We sat outside on this late, still-cool morning at a table in the shade and right next to the river. It was wonderful, as were our dishes.  What you see here, from the top, is my excellent decaf and their Fava-Rite Bowl, a mix of fresh fava beans, asparagus, spinach, new potatoes, and roasted red pepper in a cashew-chive sauce with an over-easy egg and sprouts on top. Yum! Danielle’s dish was a red quinoa wrap with mixed baby greens, their featured hummus, avocado, toasted almonds, and dried figs, with apple cider vinaigrette, served with a side of sweet potato fries. She had Kombucha to drink.

It was all fabulous and we both cleaned our plates!

Accompanying us occasionally was a very friendly pair of not-quite-ducks, eager for a bit of our complimentary popcorn. I say that because these were two Mallards clearly crossed with another bird – a goose, I suspect, based on the markings. The larger of the two, likely the male considering the dark head, had the most amazingly kind face. Neither was pushy, so no need to herd them away, but the smaller female was very quick. The larger male just looked in your eyes and hoped. They did get a little popcorn, but I suspect too much wouldn’t be good for them. But for all we know, they may work this crowd regularly and have adapted. Who knows? They were both very sweet.

Should you be in the area and want some healthy and delicious food, perhaps accompanied by a duck or two, check out The Clean Plate and their menu!

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Soup-CloseUp2Actually, to me, almost any winter day is a soup day, but it’s been way too long since I’ve made a big pot of homemade soup. I think about it; sometimes I even buy the ingredients, but end up using them for something that takes less time. Sometimes I’m sure I’m going to make the soup at the end of the work day, and that never happens. So, today, (Sunday), I just got started earlier. My soup? A (vegan) Russian Potato and Bean Soup.

I’d been looking and looking among my many cookbook and recipe sources and wasn’t finding what I wanted. Then I remembered – and was staring right at it! – that I had this great recipe box from years ago from Vegetarian Times. It was a freebie for taking a subscription, I think. There are nice little divider sections and each group is color coded, as you can see below. Definitely a handy item to have.


They had so many yummy soup recipes, and I picked this one. It was already vegan except for the sour cream, and I had a plan for that.

I used all organic produce, and scrubbed and cubed some nice Russet potatoes, thin-sliced some onions, trimmed the green beans, and got ready to cook. I used Imagine brand vegetarian “No-Chicken Broth” which is quite tasty. The recipe called for 5 cups of broth, and this broth comes in quart containers, but, aha! I have a fabulous vegetable base for making soups, and I whipped up a cup of that.


The basic soup ready to bring to a boil.

I sautéed the onions in the broth and a teaspoon of canola oil, then added the potatoes and beans for a bit. I added the rest of the broth, brought to a boil and simmered for 1/2 hour.

The next addition was a mixture of 1/3 cup of sour cream mixed with 2 T. of flour. I had some concerns here because I had vegan sour cream, which has a tofu base, and I wasn’t really sure how that would work out. The recipe asks that you add the mixture to the soup by the spoonful and blend in. Here’s where, if you’re not vegan, I’d go with real sour cream; if you are, go with the time-honored way of blending some of the stock with the flour separately and then mixing it back into the main pot. That’s what I’ll do in the future. Add in 3/4 cup of sauerkraut, 1 T. of dried dill and simmer another 15 minutes. While you’re invited to add seasonings at the end, I found the sauerkraut and dill provided plenty of flavor on their own.


Bon appétit!

The recipe for this soup is not available on the Vegetarian Times website, however, I did a search and found it on another site. If interested, here’s the recipe — enjoy!


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I won’t lie. Baking makes me feel good. Just thinking about baking actually makes me feel good … looking at yummy recipes, the photos that make me want to drop everything and run to the kitchen, considering the ingredients … all part of the process. (And I like to blog about baking!)

OBars-Ingredients2First, we gather the ingredients together. You might, (correctly), surmise that I collect recipes for eons, as this one, in a copy of Woman’s Day, carried a 2/3 page cigarette ad!  You won’t be finding
that in its recent history.

I committed to making a dessert for a volunteer picnic this Sunday for the local equine rescue I help. I wanted to also make something vegan, in keeping with my own direction, and also because when a bunch of people gather who are committed to the mission of rescuing horses, often from slaughter, (and becoming horse meat), there’s always a fair amount of vegetarians, and some vegans. I went searching OBars-Flour2through my recipes, and selected one without eggs and where I could easily replace the butter with Earth Balance vegan margarine. All other ingredients are vegan.

All you eagle-eyed bakers may have noticed something missing in that top photo – flour. NOW I have all the ingredients.

I’ve made this recipe before, but with butter and different flavors preserves. This time I also mixed it up and used brown sugar for half the sugar, as it’s such a natural with oats and cinnamon.This recipe is incredibly simple and whips up in no time.


After mixing the margarine, flour, sugar, baking powder and oat mixture together, the next step is pressing the mixture into the bottom of the pan.


Next, spreading the preserves to within a half inch of the edges.


Sprinkle top with reserved crumb mixture and coconut.


Voila – Done!

One of the things that is most difficult for me is the concept of baking vegan. I don’t have a problem with not eating meat. I know enough about what happens to animals, particularly in the factory farming system, to not want to participate in it. But eggs and dairy, particularly when it comes to baking? Now this is rough.

OBars-OnePiece2Established vegans say that once committed, you won’t miss the eggs and dairy in food. Maybe not in some food, but in baking … I don’t know. As I go through my many clipped recipes and cookbooks, I can envision making a vegan version of some, but others? Simply not possible. I am in a quandary.

But for today, I made something simple and vegan, which, of course, I had to taste to make sure it’s safe for consumption.

Because I have modified this recipe significantly, I am including it here, should you want something fast and easy, vegan or not, (just use butter.) Enjoy!

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

3/4 C. butter or margarine
1-1/4 C. each rolled oats and flour
1/2 C. sugar I used half cane sugar, half brown sugar)
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 C. strawberry preserves (or peach, apricot – anything seedless)
3/4 C. flaked coconut

In 13 x 9″ baking pan, melt butter while oven is heating to 350˚; cool.
Stir in oats, flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon until blended. It will be crumbly.
Reserve 1/2 c. crumb mixture.
Press firmly onto bottom of pan.
Spread preserves to within 1/2″ of edges.
Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture tossed with coconut.
Bake on center rack for 25 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool in pan on rack. Makes 36 bars. (per bar – 12 mg cholesterol with butter, 0 mg cholesterol with margarine.)

And now for me … back to the picture book I’m working on.

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That may sound like a contradiction in terms, but actually, it’s two different subjects.

Coming home? That would be coming home to cooking and trying something new.


Here you find my first effort at scratch vegan pancakes. They look pretty yummy, but in fact, were only okay. Granted, that is because the ingredients are quite different than what I’m used to. There are no eggs, instead Ener-G Egg Replacer; almond milk instead of real milk, and the least problematic, Earth Balance instead of real butter. We are very used to our fats and dairy, and eggs and butter do make a difference in taste. For a first effort, I’m okay with them, because I know what I have to do is learn how to adjust the recipe, as I always have, to make something taste better. Maybe soy milk instead of almond, maybe a touch of vanilla. I’m not giving up yet. And the texture was perfect.

I only regret I don’t have more time to cook and noodle around with things, but sooner or later, I’ll find it.

(Re)finding my path? That would be getting back on track in children’s books – setting new goals and timelines for illustrating, dummying and re-working specific stories; finding publishing houses and agents who are a good match for my work. It’s a lot of work, but it’s good work. Being on our path is always a good thing.


So after a stimulating breakfast with one of my children’s book buddies, I returned home and cleared off and cleaned both my work/art desks, sorted out where I’d left off on my projects, and yup, made a new plan, Stan! I wasn’t the only one who had plans for my studio chair … one kitty named Jazzy wanted in on the action. OK by me. Well, OK until Mama needs the chair and then there’s that lovely patch of sun by the window.


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In my search for healthier, lower fat/cholesterol, non-animal based and still tasty food, I continue to come across new items which have proven quite good. For those of you who also want to eat healthier, I figured I’d share some of my recent finds.

Vegenaise2Vegenaise – giving up mayonnaise is pretty difficult. I don’t eat or need it all the time, but it sure does make something even as simple as a fresh tomato sandwich sing. So I was very happy to find that the Vegenaise, from Follow Your Heart, I bought was, as the label states, “better than mayonnaise.” I say this as a Hellman’s fan, although for years I’ve been buying the “light” version. Well, Vegenaise actually tastes better than Hellman’s, in my opinion, and without the suffering of egg-laying chickens and without the animal-based fat, (a major source of cholesterol.) This product is vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and non-gmo. But while it avoids the animal products and is cholesterol-free, it’s not completely fat-free. One tablespoon of Vegenaise equals about the same fat as Hellman’s light, so be aware if you’re looking to cut fat as well as for a vegan product. And, of course, coming from a smaller manufacturer, it is pricier than something from a conglomerate producer. BetterThanBouillon2Follow Your Heart also has a wonderful line of salad dressings, cheeses that are not animal-derived and more.

Better than Bouillon is an organic vegetarian/vegan base to use in soups and stews. It was called for in a recent recipe I made, and worked great. I just whisked the base up with the stated amount of water and voila! Perfect. Made by a company called Superior Touch, who also makes a variety of other soup bases, many organic, gravy bases, also many organic, and a variety of crockpot season mixes.

BobsRedMill-HotCereal2Bob’s Red Mill makes a variety of grain products, many organic, but all non-GMO. I’ve bought flour and rolled oats from him before, but recently tried granola – very good – and this package of Organic High Fiber Cereal, a hot cereal made with a blend of stone ground oatmeal, nutrient rich flaxseed, wheat germ, high fiber oat bran, and wheat bran. There are plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber and … 1000 mg. of Omega-3! I would much prefer to get my Omega 3 from a non-animal based source, and now I’m seeing how I could switch over. Check out Bob’s Red Mill website – he has a really vast array of natural grain products, from oats to cereal to flour to baking mixes, including gluten-free.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd last but not least … a snack …. from Food Should Taste Good. I agree! My local supermarket is now carrying a full line of these non-GMO, mostly vegan, some organic, etc. snacks – crackers, kettle-cooked chips, and tortilla chips. I bought the lime tortilla chips and they are truly tasty – not too heavy on the lime. FSTG has a great line of products in really good flavors.

So there you have it – some delicious, wholesome, non-animal derived foods to try out. Enjoy!

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A friend of mine mentioned the other day that every time she saw vegan food, it always seemed weird and like most people wouldn’t want to eat it. I think there are some older, outdated ideas like that but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, many health-conscious people are already eating almost vegan and haven’t even thought about it. Like pasta? salads? Chili over rice?

Anyway, one of the things I came to realize was that if I’m going this way, I am going to have to cook more. So I chose one of the recipes in Main Street Vegan, (possibly one of the best books about food I’ve ever read), and here’s how it went. It’s called a Lentil-Spud Burger, but I’d say “burger” quite loosely.


First, gather the ingredients … hard to find some of these organic, but I got what I could. The recipe called for whole wheat panko crumbs which I couldn’t find, so I used a mixture of plain panko crumbs and whole wheat bread crumbs.


I chose redskin potatoes because they have more flavor, and as always, steam rather than boil them.


I sautéed 2 cloves of garlic in just a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Meanwhile, I whisked up a little vegetable broth using an organic vegetarian base that I was happy to discover on my supermarket shelf so I wouldn’t have to waste a can or box of broth for such a small amount.


I mashed the steamed potatoes, and was, of course, happy that there was a bunch left over for some other purpose, then mixed in the lentils, bread crumbs, broth, garlic and herbs. This was a very nice selection with there being twice as much chives as oregano, parsley and basil. I mashed all the ingredients together with a fork and made 4 patties. It held together quite nicely. The mixture did need a bit of salt, but not too much.

I cooked one of the patties in a little oil along with some grilled asparagus and served with fresh-from-the-farm Jersey tomatoes and voilà!


It was quite delicious and not like something my friend described at all. (And I still have more I can cook up!)

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When I was a child of  10 or 11, my Dad suggested we all go fishing at Cooper’s Pond in the town nearby. He made it sound like fun, so off we went.

CoopersPond-1bCooper’s Pond was a lovely park, the same place our family went to enjoy picnics or walking. On these outings, I brought along my Brownie camera that I’d been given at 9 years old, and I loved taking photos of the ducks on the pond as well as feeding them. What wouldn’t be enjoyable about fishing?

We didn’t have real fishing poles, just long sticks to which my Dad had secured some kind of line, maybe string, with a hook on the end. On the hooks, we put a piece of bread, and then we cast our lines into the water. It didn’t take long before I got a nibble, and something tugged at my line. My father got all excited, and instructed me to pull it toward me and then lift it out of the water.

There on the end of my line was a carp, probably only about 7″ long, writhing and twisting to free itself of the hook I had managed to snag in its sensitive mouth. I was horrified that I was the cause of this poor creature to be flailing about so, and I immediately began to cry, screaming, “Daddy, take it off! Daddy, take it off!” Daddy removed the hook from the fish and gently let him go back in the water, but I was inconsolable.

Who was I to have caused this animal such pain and make him fight for his life? As a child, I had not been able to make the connection between “having fun fishing” and the reality of a fish writhing on the end of my hook until I saw the results firsthand. I was heartbroken, I who fed all the ducks in that exact same spot, I who loved all animals from the earliest age I can remember.

It wasn’t until many years later, even still, that I made the next major connection that the meat or fish I cooked and ate had once been a sentient being. This is not what we’re ever told as children. The meat or fish served at meals appeared as a finished dish, prepared in some usually delicious way. One had nothing to do with the other.

The constantly evolving realization over time that the food on my plate had indeed been a living creature … and one who most likely suffered enormously before getting to my plate … enabled me to gradually eliminate almost all meat and fish from my diet in recent years. This is a plus as I move along the path to becoming vegan, but the earliest seeds of this transformation were sown when a little girl went fishing and found a humble carp to be her teacher.

Here is a dilemma I ponder nowadays … how, in writing children’s books, can I impart to young readers, without scaring them to death, of course,  that the animals they eat for dinner are no different in their capacity for contentment or pain than the animals they love as pets? That animals from chickens to elephants, honeybees to pigs, have complex lives of their own, social structures, families, attachments to their babies, and that maybe it’s not the right thing – the kind thing – to use them for our own ends, to cause them such suffering.  Is it enough to simply engender a love and appreciation of animals?

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This was so easy it’s almost silly to even post it as a special dish! My picnic host, (a meat eater), was open to having our meal vegan style, so I said I would make a “main dish” salad, he would make a variation of his famous potato salad without eggs or dairy, (i.e. mayo), and he’d make a fruit salad for dessert. Since I know he likes meat, I offered to bring my own veggie hot dog and bun while he grilled whatever inspired him. Surprisingly, he said “I’ll have a veggie dog, too.” So there we have it … an easy vegan picnic!

The salad, completely organic,  consists of whole wheat chioccioli pasta, (look like little snail shells), orange pepper, lightly steamed fresh asparagus, zucchini, and chick peas in a dressing of EVOO, lemon juice, a nice amount of garlic, salt and pepper. I also ventured into the world of tofu to replace what I would have normally added … feta cheese. I crumbled a bunch in, but I think in the future, I would marinate it in the dressing ahead of time. I adjusted the seasonings and added a bit more lemon juice when I packed the salad up.

Voila! Easy-peasy, delicious and healthy!

Happy Fourth of July!

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Just like life is filled with dreams and plans, so is it filled with transitions.

TheMac2Over the last 2 months, I’ve had a number. The most recent, though initially stressful, has been the now-happy upgrade of my beloved Mac, the primary tool of my trade.  Reliant as I am upon my Mac to make a living, I was not happy to find it behaving increasingly squirrelly as of late. It’s stood up to the test of time, but has missed a few OS upgrades as well as the accompanying program upgrades. My Mac superhero, Steve, told me that right about now is when hard drives often start to fail. Gulp.

It seemed the time had arrived. So off it went to Steve to have a new hard drive and double the memory installed as well as the latest OS and other upgrades. He brought it back, did his on-site magic, and then the biggest transition began, my learning all the (sometimes) improvements of the latest and greatest software. Trust me … a transition! (I’m much calmer now.)

But the bigger transition has been – and will be –  in my diet. While not really horrible by any means, my cholesterol was found to be sufficiently high that it needed addressing. Before you could say “lower your cholesterol,” I found myself plopped on 3 drugs — me who takes no meds at all, just vitamins and supplements, and eats largely organically, MainStreetVegan-VMoran2relatively low-fat and 99% vegetarian is suddenly infused with three. And so began a series of escalating side effects, med changes and so on … not a happy experience.

Meanwhile, at a recent picnic I was pleased and surprised that a friend bought me a book – Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. – which she read because of the benefit of the suggested diet to the prevention of cancer. I started reading. The regimen the author describes is beyond vegan in its restriction of fats, and a possibility, but has some very strong limitations. Still, I want to find a way to change my diet sufficiently to get off the meds, so I ordered additional books, one of which is pictured here, plus  2 cookbooks, Forks over Knives and the Joy of Vegan Baking and The Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps.

If I’m to consider going vegan, I need to know I have options … lots of them. I’m a bake it with butter, sugar and eggs kind of girl, and this is going to be a HUGE transition. And so I’ve begun reading, investigating, considering and shopping. That I already eat animals rarely makes one part easier, but giving up dairy? Now THAT’s tough. So I’m cutting out more dairy and animal fat than I already have and wading in.

I know plenty about the quality, or lack thereof, of our food supply and the toll it is taking on the health of millions of people as well as the planet and the horrendous suffering it is causing billions of animals. I’ve never wanted to be a part of that and have taken many steps over the years to limit my participation. Apparently, the next step – this transition – is mine to take.

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