It is with great pleasure that I announce two spectacular things:
1) October is National Vegetarian Month!
and drum roll please...
2) Beginning October 1st, I will be participating in an awesome new event called VeganMofo III (which stands for Vegan Month of Food)! Organized by the ladies at Post Punk Kitchen (which includes the amazing Isa Chandra Moskowitz, whose recipes I reviewed in my last post), VeganMofo challenges participants to blog every single day of October about vegan food. I'm up for the challenge and so excited!
Sometimes I like to blog about the important issues: animal rights, reasons to go vegan, personal moments that have shaped my vegan experience. But today, all that's on my food-obssessed brain are the cupcakes I made last night. And for a good reason. They were completely awesome, plain and simple.
Peanut butter and chocolate bliss.
You see, I'm a huge fan of Isa Chandra Moskowitz. She's the lady behind some kick-ass vegan cookbooks, including Veganomicon, Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Brunch, and my personal favorite, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (which she co-wrote with Terry Hope Romero - their second collaboration after Veganomicon). After reading all the decadent, mouth-watering recipes in Vegan Cupcakes, you really do believe that, yes, vegan cupcakes might actually be our greatest tool in world domination. I mean, how can one resist a miniature cake filled or topped with endless varieties of fluffy icing?
One of the new interns at the Farm Sanctuary meeting I attended last Thursday said something so profound to us. She said that it wasn't until she went vegan that she became a real foodie.And it's so true. I have never thought this much about food in my entire life. I mean, oh sure, I got excited about eating out and tasting delicious meals when I wasn't vegan, but it wasn't until I made the leap to veganism that I realized how many foods/cuisines/flavors I was missing out on. I also didn't think about my health, in terms of making sure I got a balanced diet each day, which especially comes in handy on days when all I can think about is making cupcakes.
(Case in point.)
Veganism has not only become a lifestyle for me, but it's also become this joyous new project I take on every day. Food excites me now more than ever before. Food - the stuff that we eat every day - has become much more than that to me - it is at the heart of my joy nowadays. So, to the skeptics who might believe that a vegan diet is anything but joyful, I say - eat and cook with me for a week!
In the beginning of the film Julie and Julia, Julia Child and her husband are trying to figure out a hobby for her to work on. After discussing some options, her husband asks Julia plainly, "Well, what do you like to do?", and with a mouth full of food, she thinks for a moment and responds, "Eat!".
As I took in both the simplistic, yet complex quality of that statement, my mind began to scream in a similar tone to Julia's, "Me too! ME TOO!!"
So, with a delicious fervor, I "followed my bliss" last night, as teacher Joseph Campbell so eloquently put it once. I baked chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter mousse icing, and then I proceeded to eat several of them. And it really was bliss.
"... if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be. "
It would be cruel of me to end my post without the actual recipe for these delectable treats. So, here you go. While I don't have a recipe for the peanut butter mousse I created last night, I can relay the recipe that inspired me. Maybe you'll find your own bliss in them as I did last night. If nothing else, you will have made and eaten something truly yummy. And that's good enough for me.
Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake
taken from the cookbook "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World", by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
Makes 12 cupcakes
1 c. soymilk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract, chocolate extract,
or more vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
2. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract, and other extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat till foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches towet ingredients and beat till no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are okay).
3. Pour into liners, filling three-quarters of the way. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Peanut Buttercream Frosting
taken from the cookbook "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World",
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
1/4 c. margarine softened (Earth Balance is a great brand)
2 tbsp. shortening (again, Earth Balance sticks are the best for this)
1/3 c. creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp. barley malt syrup or molasses, optional
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. confectioner's sugar
1-2 tbsp. rice milk, soy milk, or soy creamer
1. With electric handheld mixer, cream together margarine and shortening at medium speed till smooth. Add peanut butter, molasses, and vanilla, and beat until very smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in sugar; mixture will be very thick. Dribble in rice milk a little at a time, beating continously till frosting is pale tan and very fluffly. Adjust this thickness of the frosting by adding rice mik and more confectioner's sugar in small increments. Frost or fill cool cupcakes.
I love brunch. It's like one of the best things in the world. And what better way to do brunch than by cracking open a new cookbook? Steve's mom, Ruth, was kind enough to give us Isa Chandra Moskowitz's lovely new book, Vegan Brunch, and today, I got to test out a few of her recipes. The result? Pure yumminess (sure, that's a word).
After about an hour of prep work, I finally got the Sweet Onion Quiche and Spiced Roasted Potatoes in the oven...
I added some paprika to the quiche to give it a nice color contrast.
The finished product!
(forgive me for the lack of quality in these photos. Still using a camera phone!)
And just for fun, I included some cornmeal biscuits. :)
The Lorax was a book I don't remember reading as a child. I picked it up at the ripe old age of 24, when one of the kids I was babysitting at the time wanted to read a story before bedtime. As I paged through it, reading in funny voices to the little girl with wide eyes listening, I had no idea what was in store for me.
As it turned out, the Lorax would become one of my great personal heroes.
A scruffy little runt of a creature, the Lorax is a character who "speaks for the trees," as well as the animals and the environment. The Lorax fights the good fight of defending his habitat against "The Once-ler", a mysterious and greedy character who finds a way to make profit off of the natural environment around him.
As the Once-ler begins chopping down the Truffula trees that live amongst the Lorax and other inhabitants of the land, the Lorax desperately declares:
"I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I'm asking you sir, at the top of my lungs - that thing! That horrible thing that I see! What's that thing you've made out of my truffula tree? "
As the story goes on, it becomes clear that the Once-ler has no intention of stopping his "work" - in fact, he does not cease the tree chopping until the final Truffula Tree is chopped to the ground. And once that happens, the Lorax has no other choice but to sadly leave the home he loves:
"Now, all that was left 'neath the bad-smelling sky was my big, empty factory, the Lorax, and I. The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance. Just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance... as he LIFTED himself by the seat of his pants. And I'll never forget the grim look on his face when he hoisted himself and took leave of this place, through a hole in the smog without leaving a trace."
The story ends with a quote that has stuck with me all the way until now. You see, the entire time, the Once-ler had been telling this story as a tale from the past to a young child. As he finishes, he gives a seed to the child, and explains:
" You're in charge of the last of the truffula seeds. And truffula trees are what everyone needs. Plant a new truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water, and feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax, and all of his friends may... come back."
It's amazing how children's books can inspire in ways beyond comprehension.
I just finished John Robbins' book, Diet for a New America, and he reminds me a lot of my hero, the Lorax. Like the Lorax, Robbins also makes a case for the trees, the environment, and the animals that exist in this world alongside us. Robbins' case is clear - we need to change our eating habits, or we will not be able to share our beautiful Earth with future generations. The consumption of animal products is so high that we are beginning to lose the precious natural resources that keep us and our world healthy. Additionally, we are killing ourselves by overconsuming these products. It hadn't occurred to me that there could be a direct connection between diet and disease, but there is. It's simple really - eating a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol significantly increases your chances of an endless list of diseases and illnesses. And what do meat, dairy and eggs all have in common? They are loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol.
Robbins wrote Diet for a New America in 1987 - twenty-two years ago. It's baffling to me that we are still very much dealing with these issues today. I went vegan nearly a year ago because I could no longer be a part of a system that caused so much suffering. I had no idea that by going vegan, I would be choosing the healthiest possible diet out there. Vegan food has no cholesterol, and if you eat a balanced diet, you will definitely get in your daily quotient of protein and nutrients (as long as you're consuming a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes). Also - contrary to popular belief, a balanced vegan diet has more than enough protein in it (yet another truth that the food industry has muddled for us).
Much like Food Inc, Diet for a New America also uncovers many lies the food industry has put out there to the general public about what is healthy and good for us to consume. It shocked me to learn that The National Dairy Council has been supplying educational materials to elementary schools for years now, and not as a way to simply show how healthy cow's milk is. The National Dairy Council cares about one thing and one thing only - profit - and by targeting a young group of people, they've been teaching young minds that buying dairy products is essential to growing up "strong and healthy". My entire life, I always thought I needed milk - that without milk, my bones would not be "strong and healthy". I mean, come on - "Milk does a body good," right? But there are two major problems with cow's milk: 1) it's made for baby cows (who have four stomachs and are babies trying to grow as fast as possible), and 2) it is high in protein. So much protein that the calcium in cow's milk cannot be properly absorbed. After learning this, it was no surprise for me to learn that the countries with the highest levels of osteoporosis are the same countries that have the highest dairy intakes.
Now, this is just the tip of the nutritional iceberg that makes up part of Diet for a New America. Robbins is so unbelievably thorough in his research - I counted almost thirty pages of footnotes - that by the end of the book, you really have no other choice but to confront the facts. Meat is not good for you. Dairy and eggs are not good for you. Animal products are not good for our health or the well-being of our environment.
Okay, so maybe you're thinking - now what? I've read all of this information from Lindsay's blog - what do I do now? Well, there are a plethora of choices you have now. You can continue on your journey knowing this information. You can make a few choices here or there - jump on the country's bandwagon and have a Meatless Monday, look up a vegetarian recipe using a new food you've never tried before, do some research of your own. But don't let my words overwhelm you to the point that you don't do anything.
"Don't do nothing because you can't do everything. Do something, anything!"
- Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (vegan baker and activist)
As the end of The Lorax shows us, we need to be better to our world before we lose it. We need to protect it, to love it, to nurture it. Why not choose living in such a way that is not only good for the environment, but also good for you? It may seem like an arduous task at first, but the effort will be well worth it. You will begin to see a whole new world open up for you. A peace will come over you as you realize you are living in balance with the wholeness of the Earth, not against it. Your conscience will become clearer. And you will feel better - physically, emotionally, and maybe even spiritually.
If you ever have any questions about how to begin this journey, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to share more of my own experience with you. Because it was really tough for me to make such a big change in my life. It was scary and challenging and uncomfortable. But now, I feel the best I've ever felt. And it's all because I decided to eat in such a way that wasn't just for myself anymore. I was eating for the world as well.
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better. It's not."
Life has gotten into the way, as it always seems to. I had a plan to blog about California and give a glowing review of John Robbins' extraordinary book Diet for a New America, but the beginning of a new job, coupled with wedding stresses and having a new car in the city, have left me tired and not as focused as I had originally planned. So, in the place of my planned posts, I will leave you for now with this passage today from Diet, entitled "My Dream":
I have a dream.
I see humankind understanding that the spirit which sings in our hearts sings as well in the hearts of other animals. I see us realizing that there are many kinds of intelligence, many kinds of souls, many kinds of suffering and striving. I see us knowing that all creatures are endowed with the same will-to-live which we possess. I see us respecting theirs, as we would like our own to be respected were we in the less powerful position and they dominant upon the earth.
I see us grateful for these extraordinary companions.
I see our lives rich with animals. I see us with many animal friends. I see our cities sprinkled with wild places, shorelines, parks, ravines and creek-canyones, where wild creatures can live. I see all life forms working together in harmony, cultivating the full potential of the planet.
I see us appreciating the different needs, different kinds of intelligence, and different responsibilities of the various animals. I see us sensing the unique ways in which they feel, they think, they suffer, and they love.
I see us learning to treat with respect those who are, in the greater scheme of things, but our younger brothers and sisters. I see us realizing they, too, are expressions, in their individual ways, of the universal life-force. I see us acting from the knowledge that it is the same God-Force that gives us all breath.
I see us realizing that all God's critters have a place in the choir.
Have a beautiful day everyone. I hope that if you were able to read this passage, that you can take a deep breath in to really open yourself up to it. It opened me up, and I'm already a lover of animals.
Steve and I just came back from a beautiful trip to LA (we're thinking of moving there next year), and the wonderful friends we were staying with, Joanna Wilson and Brian Leahy, happen to also be amazing photographers as well. The result? An awesome new main picture for the blog!
I'll be posting about our trip (I took plenty of food pictures) and also on my thoughts about John Robbins' extraordinary book, Diet for a New America, this weekend.
For now, please enjoy a revamped version of Kiss Me, I'm Vegan!
(And for more information about Joanna and Brian's photography, check out their website: