May 28, 2012


Looks like a holiday weekend brings out the blogger in me. Work has been great but tomorrow I start back on my dreaded 2-a-days. That means for the next four weeks (excluding today) on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday I teach from 9 am to 1pm and then again from 6:30pm to 10:30pm. One day of it is not so bad, it's the Monday/Tuesday back-to-back combo. I arrive home around 11pm on Monday only to turn around and wake up an 6am Tuesday (not my typical 7-8 hours of sleep, so I am little cranky....but that should prepare me for kids right?).

In a few previous posts I said it would explain "opportunistic vegan". I guess now is a better time than any. As you already know (if you are kind enough to read my blog  *thank you!!!*), my husband, Mike, and I are both now vegan. And by vegan, I mean 95% of the time vegan: no meat, no dairy, and no eggs. Now our reasoning behind all this is different and complex. Mike does it for health reasons; I do it for a combo of health, animal welfare, and environmental reasons. Normally when you tell people you are vegan you will receive a multitude of negative responses: "don't you miss meat/dairy/eggs?", "you're one of those tree-hugging hippie types", "you're a food snob", "being vegan is impossible", "I could never do it". The last one always gets me. Sure you can do it. Even if just for one day a week. Keep an open mind and anything is possible. You may find you like it :) 

The opportunistic point is that when some one cooks something for us, goes through all that effort, we will eat it. A little meat or dairy here and there won't kill us. We aren't snobs when people buy food for us, that's just rude. But when we get to make the decision (at a restaurant or the grocery store) we will always buy vegan. We also don't force our eating habits on people. So when some one comes to my house for dinner, I always ask them ahead of time if they would prefer something non-vegan to eat because I would gladly make it for them (because I love cooking!). For the most part, our friends and family are very open to trying vegan meals. Usually the only request I get is for cow's milk (for coffee and cereal).

Veganism comes with a lot of negative connotations in American society. A few movies and books I have enjoyed instead call our eating habits a "whole foods, plant based diet". Doesn't that sound friendlier? I still say vegan because I only have to say one word as opposed to five. So what I advocate to people who will listen (i.e. my Advanced Bio class that is forced to sit and listen to me for 4 hours, 3 days a week), is to have an open mind and at least try it for a day or two or more. You may like what happens not only to yourself but to the world around you.

I have probably bored you enough today with my lecture, so I will save my suggested movies and books until the next post. Now to get into some older photos.  We planted jalapeños last year and had an over abundance in the late fall. It is quite hard to find things to do with jalapeños but I did find this website: Jalapeño Madness. This is not from that website, but I took a basic bagel recipe (from my Southern Living cookbook) and added diced jalapeños. Here is the result:
Fantastic! I recently made them again (about a month ago) when two of Mike's friends were staying with us. They were a big hit even without cream cheese or butter (did I mention the recipe is totally vegan)!

We weren't around for the holidays (instead we were in Ohio and Hawaii), so I had to make my co-worker Christmas gifts early. I wanted to make all vegan treats to show how good vegan baking can be. Here is one of my batches of vegan peppermint sugar cookies (make sure to use a vegan butter!):
Eventually, they were iced with a simple powdered sugar/almond milk glaze.

Here is one of the assembled boxes:
 In the top left corner are apple jellies, in the top right corner are vegan fruit and nut balls ( I can't find the recipe), in the bottom left corner is dark chocolate peppermint fudge (again cannot find the recipe), and, finally, in the lower right hand corner are my sugar cookies all iced and with sprinkles. I guess they were a big hit (I found out later when I got back from vacation).

Speaking of returning from of the many things Mike and I discovered in Hawaii were açaí bowls. Amazing! We had as many as we could while we were out there. When we returned home, we tried to recreate them:
Doesn't that look good?!? Below all the fruit is a blend of açaí berry puree (we got it frozen at the store), almond milk, frozen blueberries, and a little agave nectar. You then top it with granola (in this case, my homemade granola), sliced strawberries and bananas, and then you finally drizzle local honey over the top. The absolute best way to start your day!!!

Overload comes to mind after reading all of this, so I will stop. Until next time, enjoy this photo taken near the Ringling Bride in Sarasota on Thanksgiving day, 2011:

May 27, 2012

Seasonal Eating

Our growing season is almost over (and by "our", I mean at both my house and all around the Tampa Bay area) and I know I should have taken pictures of our garden in full bloom. At the peak, the turnips and beets were going crazy, and we had lettuce and scallions and herbs galore! Now, as we wind down, the last of the blueberries are ripening (we had a great turn out on our one surviving blueberry bush!). As a hint of whats to come, the orange tree has about 15 tiny babies that will grow through the summer and be ready during the Florida winter (can't wait!). Our carrots and fennel are almost ready to harvest, and I will make sure to take pictures. But to hold you over, here is one shot I took while sitting in the back of the yard (you cannot see the raised beds behind me). Visible in this shot are the blueberry bush, the lemon tree, the lime tree, the orange tree, scallions, fennel, and the tops of the carrots:

Previous posts have talked about "knowing" where our food comes from and becoming vegans. It is still as true as ever, and now, to add to it, the slow food movement and being a "locavore" have starting creeping into my food/cooking choices. I have been reading.... a lot (having my Nook Color totally helps). Recently I have read "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser, many Michael Pollan books, and "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingslover. Not only do these books advocate knowing where your food comes from (i.e. avoiding processed and fast foods with ingredients you can't pronounce), but also about supporting the local, small farmers as they face the industrialized food system. It takes a lot to change your thinking about food (trust me, it took a lot of reading and research), and I am not trying to preach to you, but just ask that you take some time to consider your food and what you really know about it and where it comes from. I know it's lofty to think that we can change the system (the big companies controlling our food system), but I believe every small step counts.

One thing all this reading has opened my eyes to is seasonal eating. Seasonal eating is exactly what it sounds like, eating based on the season. When I lived in Ohio, I had a very vague concept of this: corn was ready at the end of summer, and apples and pumpkins were plentiful in the early fall. But the American grocery store has almost bust destroyed the concept of seasonal eating. All food is in season. You can purchase a tomato all year around. Yea, that tomato is cheap, and usually pretty tasteless, but now you can make that recipe you have been dying to try. Never mind that the tomato was shipped over 2000 miles to your grocery store (what a waste of gas!), was grown with lots of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and is most likely genetically engineered to last that long trip yet still be "fresh" when you buy know what, I am preaching.....I am sorry. I am very passionate about all of this now (I wish I had found this passion before I went to college!).

Really the point I was going to make with this post was, luckily, Mike and I discovered this awesome, local, organic farm back in October that we have been buying veggies from. Magnolia Organics is about a 30 minute drive north of where we live (though some weekends they come to local farmers markets that are closer to my house). From September to June, we can purchase a harvest box from them every week with what ever seasonal produce they are growing (in Florida, the season are slightly different than up north). It is totally awesome!! Since we discovered them, we have been planning our vegan meals around what we get in the box each week (aka: seasonal eating). I am currently researching ways to eat more local in this area. I don't think we will ever be 100% local (agave isn't grown any where near here), but something is better than nothing (small steps!). So what I would like to share with you are two dinners from this week (and there are more backed up pictures that I will hopefully share soon) that are almost entirely local, organic, and vegan (the prefect trifecta).

This meal was from a few days ago: red fish from the Gulf of Mexico (my bro caught it back in March when he was visiting), and organic zucchini, fairy tale eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and scallions from Magnolia (the fish is hidden under all the veggies). This was an entirely local meal :)

Tonight's dinner was a little more ambitious. Homemade naan, celery and rice soup, and fresh green been salad:
Now the flour for the naan was definitely not local (I don't think I can get local flour here) but it was organic. The organic green beans from Magnolia are topped with scallions from Magnolia, olive oil (not local or organic), and homemade spicy mustard from Mike's dad. The soup has organic onions and celery from Magnolia, homemade veggie broth (made with left over pieces and parts from Magnolia veggies), vegan butter (not local), and organic brown rice (also not local).

I guess the take away message should be that you should make your own food (so you know where it comes from) and take pride in it (I will try and take less pride so you don't think I am a food snob).

Until next time, if you decide to come back next time (and don't hate me too much for being a little too wordy), please enjoy this photo of a mommy turtle guarding her nesting hole on Honeymoon Island;