Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

As my mom noted on the comments page from my last post, it has been a while since I've last checked in with you guys on here. I have a good reason though - I've been traveling all across the Tri-State area (from New Jersey to Delaware to Pennsylvania, back to New Jersey, and finally bringing myself home to Brooklyn) - all in the name of holiday celebrating. I had a wonderful, funny, emotional, and delicious holiday with my family, and I simply cannot wait to share my memories with you all here very soon. But for now, I am going to sit down on my comfy blue couch with Steve and our cats, eat some cereal with soymilk, and spread the good cheer that comes with the culmination of another challenging and inspiring year of life. I wish for everyone a beautiful holiday of reflection, laughter, love, and lots of yummy food.

Happy New Year, and I will see you with a kick-butt new post in 2010!


 

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
~Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ode to Lasagna




Lasagna, Lasagna,
How I love you so,

You are truly delicious
This I happily know,

No need for cow cheese,
Tofu ricotta will suffice

Being topped with Nutritional Yeast 
Makes you taste quite nice!

The best part about you?
It's that I can eat you
And still be vegan too
Which makes me yell "Woohoo!"

So, yeah, I made lasagna last night. Mouth-watering, smile-inducing, tummy-loving lasagna. And now I will share my special homemade recipe with you. Enjoy!



Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
This recipe makes enough lasagna for about two days of leftovers for two people. 
Half the recipe if you're only cooking for yourself.

1 lb. cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and patted dry
2 servings of Sweet Tofu Ricotta (Recipe below)
2 boxes lasagna noodles
(I used Brown Rice No-Cook noodles - they were great!)
2-3 jars of your favorite tomato sauce
2 tbsp. cooking oil
1/3 c. Nutritional Yeast
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook pasta noodles according to directions (if they require cooking).
3. While pasta is cooking, make tofu ricotta.When done, heat oil in a medium to large sized pan. Once oil gets hot, add mushrooms and cook until tender. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and toss to coat. Mix mushrooms and spinach with the ricotta until well combined.
4. Oil a large casserole dish. Spread an even thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish. Layer noodles on top of sauce, then spread ricotta on top of noodles. Repeat until you have no more pasta or ricotta (I had about three layers). Pour the rest of your tomato sauce all over the noodles to completely cover. Sprinkle the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and onion powder over the top. Add some salt and pepper if you like.  
5. Bake uncovered for 50 minutes to an hour, or until the top begins to brown and crisp nicely.

Sweet Tofu Ricotta
You can add this to any dish that calls for ricotta. 

1 package firm or extra firm tofu,
pressed for 5-10 minutes and crumbled
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 c. vegan cane sugar or agave nectar
more sweetener/salt on hand to taste

1. In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients and pulse until thick and smooth. I like to start with 2 tsbp. of oil, and then add more as I go to make it creamier. You can also add more sugar to reach your own desired level of sweetness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Eating Animals is...

a revelation, in my opinion.

Not the actual act of eating animals, of course (that would be a crazy way to start a post on a vegan blog!).  



Eating Animals, the new book by Jonathan Safran Foer, is a thoughtful examination about why we eat the flesh and byproducts of animals, why we continue to justify doing it, and why we need to start telling and living a different story. A project that began as a search for the best way to feed his newborn son, Foer spent three years probing the meat industry from every angle to learn how our animals are raised and made into food for the masses. As the reader, we are taken on a very emotional ride with Foer as he discusses the importance of long-standing food traditions in his family - traditions that have been forever changed by his new knowledge about how 99% of all farm animals are raised, which is in factories.  My heart remained with Foer as he faced the difficult dilemma of trying to to eat in a way that is morally just, despite being socially unacceptable more often than not.  In the book, he writes:

" Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand... that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory - disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own."

 Foer poses questions and thoughts I have been wondering myself many times, and I was so happy to see someone else share my feelings about the cruel, inhumane, and destructive methods of our current factory farm industry.  Foer desperately wants and pleads for a better way to treat animals and live in peace with them - and until that way becomes the norm, Foer has chosen a vegetarian diet for his family. Don't get me wrong - there were parts of the book where I was completely frustrated - for example, reading about an independent rancher defending the act of killing an animal for food and profit was very difficult to take in. But Foer handles the role of devil's advocate seamlessly - by showing two different sides to a very tricky coin, Foer is more than able to make his point: that the methods behind factory farming - which is how nearly all animals raised for food are raised - are horrific, damaging to the earth, and need to stop. For a novelist to come to this conclusion, rather than an environmentalist, activist, or fellow vegan, is the reason why I love Eating Animals. It is proof that the ways of the world are changing - that people from all walks of life are beginning to be brave enough to look behind the veiled curtain of the factory farming industry to see it for what it is: 100% cruelty. I am so happy to have picked up a copy of this book, and I highly suggest you do too. Whether you are vegan or not, Eating Animals is a universal story of a person's quest to live an honest, healthy, and just life for their family.

" Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn't motivation, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn't enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience to say not now, then when?"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

For real - it's December??

I can't believe it's the last month of 2009. Wow. It seems like this year went by way too quickly for me. I started it with a cleanse, only three months of veganism under my belt, and a feeling that I had a lot that I wanted to accomplish this year. And suddenly it's December! How did that happen?



The stockings were hung in the Brooklyn apartment with care...


A few moments in Lindsay's 2009 worth noting: dressing up as a cow for the Farm Sanctuary's Walk for Farm Animals, visiting my first Farm Animal Sanctuary (if you haven't done this yet, you must make it a part of your 2010), participating in my first cooking throw-down as a vegan - where I won the Audience Favorite award, getting to play a mini-mart clerk on Guiding Light before it got canceled, being a part of two plays this summer that I absolutely loved, the awakening of a new dream in my life - to one day have a small farm sanctuary, a trip to California that changed my life, a wedding that changed my life, my blog finally finding a small base of dedicated readers, and my (and Steve's) very first vegan Thanksgiving. I note these moments because when I look back on them, I can't believe they were packed into a single year. Sometimes I feel like my life is a dream - especially in the case of my wedding. I'll live it so quickly, turn around, scratching my head wondering - did it all really happen? Was that me?

I've decided to spend my last month of the year doing much reflection. It's been a tough three weeks since the wedding, because I've been job hunting like mad, which has left not much time for blogging. And I hate that, because I love writing here. But reflection has also shown me that despite the tough times, I have so much to be thankful for. It's easy to forget the positive moments when you're knee deep in a negative one, but I'm working hard to lift myself up and really put everything into perspective.

On the vegan front, I have much to be thankful for. People in my life have been affected by my change, so much so that they have adapted small changes of their own. This blog has led to people reaching out and asking how they can take the first steps to going vegan. All around me, I see the world opening up to the idea of veganism - be it through Alicia Silverstone's new book and website, Jonathan Safran Foer's new book and website, or even Ellen's brave and wonderful decision to publicly talk about why she lives a vegan lifestyle. Dr. Oz had a cowboy on his show who, when confronted with his overwhelming health problems from eating a meat-heavy diet, tried a vegan diet and was forever changed. Even President Obama acknowledged the value and worth of sentient beings by passing legislation that protects downer cows from being slaughtered. I am blown away by the positive changes veganism is doing for so many people - and here I sit, comfortably in my vegan lifestyle. After over a year of living this way, it has become a part of me. Sometimes I just can't believe I'm a vegan - but for whatever reason, I was meant to watch a video three years ago that would impact me like nothing else. And here I am today. To people who haven't lived this way or who are just starting out, I know the experience can seem overhwhelming and complex. But just know - it's easy for me now. So much easier than I could have ever imagined. Because when you make something a part of you - when you commit to it fully - yes, it can be a challenge at first. But just like a bad habit, good habits can stick and become second nature, if you want them too. Be it a husband or a lifestyle. :)

As the holidays near, I am full of so much joy for the weeks to come - the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is where I am at complete bliss. Last year around this time, I made a list of some of the best ways to be a compassionate shopper at the holidays. I think it was a great idea, despite only reaching a few readers at the time, so I've decided to do it again. Below you'll find a short list - a cheat sheet, if you will - of a few ways to add compassion to your holiday shopping. Remember - all you have to do is click on the underlined words to go their link. Enjoy - and if there's anything I've missed, feel free to add a few of your own as a comment!

1. Animal Sponsorship

2. Support a Vegan Company
3. Support Vegan Merchants on Etsy.com 

  
Happy Holidays everyone! Enjoy the rest of the season - as with everything else, it seems to go by all too quickly each year. Thank you for all of your support this past year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Thanksgiving Blessing


 At dinner with my sister and mom


 My sister, brother, and I at the rehearsal dinner


Dancing with my dad at the wedding reception

There are few greater things in life than the feeling of immense gratitude. Whether it's the warmth experienced after being treated kindly by a stranger, the smile that arises after a family member expresses their love, or the comfort of a full belly after eating a homemade meal, gratitude can come in many wonderful forms. For me, the experience of my first vegan thanksgiving has instilled within me enough gratitude to last an entire lifetime.


The table ready for a Thanksgiving feast...



A gift from Steve's mom to help me get going...



Mello's adoption certificate from Farm Sanctuary


Both Steve and I have been blessed to have families that love and support us wherever we are on our journey in life. We also happen to have families who are very real with us - if we're down, they'll do whatever they can to cheer us up; if we're confused, they'll set us straight.  What has probably been the greatest challenge for our families has been the introduction of a new lifestyle into their lives - our vegan diet. Steve has been successfully living vegan for about three months now, and I've been at it for over a year now, as most of you know.  But with this change has come an issue that I think a lot of vegan (and even non-vegan) eaters can relate to - the change of a time-honored tradition.  I'm in the middle of reading Jonathan Safran Foer's new book, Eating Animals, and in it he poses the argument that being a socially responsible person does not always translate to being a socially acceptable (or accepted) person. Since food can be tied to so much more than the simple act of nourishment, approaching a tradition in which the food is inextricably linked to the event needs to be done with much care and consideration. I'm sure we all have or know that mom, dad, grandpa, aunt, or other family member who cooks for us abundant meals when we visit for the holidays or at other points during the year - and to refuse it on the basis of eating preferences (or ethical standards) can prove to be a tricky task.


Once Steve and I had the idea to host Thanksgiving, we began to envision which traditions mattered the most to us. Food was at the top of the list (as it always is for me), family followed, and after that was gratitude - gratitude for having a family who had just spent the previous month devoting their time and efforts to helping us get married in the most beautiful, loving way possible. We wanted our families to come to our home on Thanksgiving and receive the gift of not only our love and gratitude, but also a feast of delicious food. We wanted to provide everything, so that they didn't have to worry about anything - it was a chance to allow them a break from always being the Thanksgiving hosts each year. For us, the tradition of consuming turkey or any kind of animal products on Thanksgiving just wasn't something we wanted to compromise on, so we planned instead to prepare vegan dishes that were comforting, yummy, and reminiscent of Thanksgivings past. Not the easiest thing in the world to do, but if anyone knows me, they know I love a good challenge!  After hours of researching the best holiday recipes I could find, carefully shopping at Whole Foods, and stocking up our kitchen, we were ready to go.


Our fridge was stocked!


So was our oven!



Steve working on the cutlets...


Onions.


Stuffing!

It was a day full of stress (the good kind),  a very hot kitchen, and balancing a million things at once, but somehow, like magic, everything came together. We had more food than we knew what to do with: traditional stuffing, sausage and apple stuffing, country fried cutlets, vegan meatloaf, mashed potatoes, stuffed shells, cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin pie, roasted banana cheesecake, and coconut whipped cream. If that wasn't enough, Steve's mom made a veganized version of one of Steve's favorite holiday dishes - sweet potato casserole, complete with vegan marshmellows.


Our feast is ready!


One joy of Thanksgiving in a tiny New York apartment -
the chair table.



Mmmm... pie...

My biggest hopes for the day were surpassed after watching a large majority of people clean their plates - Steve's dad, who is usually more meat and potatoes than tofu, said he was most surprised by the vegan meatloaf, which he said tasted just like meatloaf! In the end, this meal was a very important one, in that it showed a lot of my family that eating vegan can be a fully satisfying and comforting experience.


  A very tired apron.

All in all, this past holiday taught me that, yes, it may be difficult to change up a tradition, but it's the people who share that tradition with you that really matter.  

And a very lovely P.S.:
As if Thanksgiving weren't enough of a gift, I've recently found out that Steve's mom has decided to devote one day a week to vegan cooking, and my brother is on day three of Kathy Freston's Vegan Cleanse!