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    Vegan Cinnamon French Toast

    French toast is something we LOVE on the weekends around here; easy, delicious, and a great way to use up stale bread. The trick, after becoming vegan, was to find a way to mimic the delicious crustiness that traditional egg-and-milk French toast has, without, of course, using egg and milk. After many tries, I think I've come up with a share-worth recipe.


    2 cups unsweetened coconut milk

    2 Tbs flour

    2 tsp maple syrup

    1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    1/2 tsp cinnamon

    1/4 tsp nutmeg

    12 - 16 thickly-sliced bread (stale sourdough is the BEST - the holes really soak up the flavors; in this picture I used whole wheat French - really, any stale bread works!)


    Heat your pan/griddle to medium low heat, and coat well with oil or margarine. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a shallow dish - whisk together well to break up the flour chunks. Dip a piece of bread in the mixture, then quickly flip to coat the second side, then right to the griddle. The trick here is not to SOAK your bread, but not undercoat either - a nice in-between. Flip when the edges start to bubble a bit; they're done when both sides are nicely browned. Top several slices with sliced bananas or strawberries, syrup, and cinnamon.




    For a few more vegan & vegetarian recipes... visit my recipe section.


    Posted: Oct 21 2012, 23:26 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Vegan Lentil Vegetable Soup

    2 tsp olive oil

    3-4 diced shallots

    3-4 sliced carrots

    3-4 stalks sliced celery

    4 cups organic vegetable broth (I used Pacific brand low sodium)

    1 cup water

    1 cup dried lentils (I used a half-half mix of yellow & brown lentils)

    1/4 tsp black pepper

    1/4 tsp dried thyme

    2 bay leaves

    1/2 tsp salt

    1 Tbsp lemon juice


    Sautee shallots, carrots, and celery in the olive oil until onions are clear. Add vegetable broth, water, lentils, and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until lentils are soft (but with a bit of texture); about 45 min, depending on the type of lentils you use. Your house will smell heavenly and you will have a hard time not tasting the soup, a lot, while cooking. Remember to remove the bay leaves and stir in the lemon juice before serving! All-told this dinner - prep to serve took a bit over an hour (but I'm a slow chopper). Makes about 6 servings.

    I served with multigrain bread and a green salad (arugula, spinach, sprouts, celery, and cucumber) with raspberry vinaigrette.


    Everyone in my family finished their bowl to the last drop (they liked it even better than my bean & mushroom soup). I call that a win! 

    (this recipe was inspired by About.com's Vegetarian Lentil Soup http://vegetarian.about.com/od/soupsstewsandchili/r/lentilsoup.htm)


    Posted: Oct 13 2012, 15:26 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    How to Have a Harry Potter Party

    My daughter just turned 8. When she suggested Harry Potter as an idea for part of her party, we weren't surprised. She's been reading the series for the last year and a half, and though we hadn't seen the movies yet (at least not until right before the party), Harry Potter reigns supreme in this household. But, what started as an idea evolved into a theme - and into a way of life for us - at least for the few weeks leading up to the party!

    For starters, we invited about 7 children, and planned for up to 15 to arrive at Hogwarts (our house) - which included siblings. We created the invitations on the computer, the concept was an owl carrying the "acceptance letter" to each child - inviting them to Hogwarts (our house). Each was printed on "aged" looking paper, then hand addressed by my daughter, and sealed with "potions" stickers (it was a real benefit that her birthday falls at the end of September, which allowed us to take full advantage of the early Halloween merchandising in the shops!) Here's the invite: 

    (if you'd like a downloadable copy of this, let me know & I can make it available!)

    Over the next few weeks, we picked out costumes, convinced my mother-in-law and good friend to be teachers, my husband brushed up on his magic skills - in order to lead the Defense Against the Dark Arts class, of course, and my daughter and son set to work on decorating - rather, transforming - our house into Hogwarts!

    (our house, transformed)

    (our front door - the entrance to Hogwarts, via Platform 9 & 3/4s of course!)

    The kids were welcomed to Hogwarts by Professor Sprout and... let's say, Harry Potter's grandfather. :) 

    Some kids arrived in costume, but some did not, so we had hats at the ready! As the children were waiting for everyone to arrive, we had the first Harry Potter movie playing - as a way to keep everyone in one place, and a way for any parents or kids unfamiliar with the story (huh?) to have an idea of what was to come! 

    (Chilaxing to Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone)

    Once everyone arrived, they were each given a Hogwarts Class Schedule:

    (Hogwart's Daily Class Schedule)

    Then, we encouraged each child to go to Gringott's Bank to retrieve their galleons, knuts, and sickles: 

    (Gringott's Wizarding Bank)

    Everyone needed their magic money so they could buy their supplies in Diagon Alley. First the kids "bought" their broomsticks (again, birthday party around Halloween was a blessing here!), then a magical creature from Eeylops Owl Emporium:

    (many magical creatures - supplied by our own shop, SeriousPlush.com)

    And, finally, on to Ollivander's Wand Shop for the first organized activity of the party: wand decorating! My husband had purchased dowels of various widths & cut them to a variety of lengths, then sanded the ends smooth. Decorations included markers, stickers, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners:

    (Choosing their own wands - or - did the wands choose them?)

    Once everyone had their wands, I (as Minerva McGonagall, of course) officially "welcomed" everyone to Hogwarts and split the kids into 4 groups (we chose NOT to use a sorting hat or houses for this process, because we didn't want anyone to feel left out or that they were placed in the wrong house - say, Gryffindor instead of Slytherin, just for one wild example) of about 3 children each. We had four "classes", each led by a teacher.

    (Snape's sister unfortunately didn't make it into this photo... I think she was breastfeeding Mandrake at that point)

    1) I taught Transfiguration (each child received a cauldron of magical growth potion [warm water] into which they dropped dragon eggs [mini sponge animals - available at the dollar store!] and used their wands to transfigure them into magical creatures. 

    2) My mother-in-law (Pomona Sprout) taught Herbology - where she had each child put on a pair of earmuffs, transplant a baby mandrake (mums) into a pot, then apply dragon dung (potting soil), and unicorn blood (water).

    3) My husband (Albus Dumbledore) taught Defense Against the Dark Arts - in which he put on a small magic show then taught each child their own magic trick.

    (okay, the baby didn't really learn any magic tricks, but this photo was too cute not to include)

    4) My dear friend (Severus Snape's sister, "Seraphina Snape") taught Potions - where each child had their own cauldron (mini mason jar) and first mixed baking soda & vinegar, and then, mashed mistletoe berries (blueberry juice) & Lethe river water (soda water). Yummmmm.

    (Seraphina Snape & her assistant, Mandrake)

    As each class was finished, the group would rotate to the next, until every student had a chance to attend each class. Then came lunch & desert!

    (Vegan cupcakes with lightning bolts!)

    And finally, once everyone had a chance to attend all the classes they wanted, we all went outside to play QUIDDITCH! Truth be told, this was the highlight of the party - the kids ran around the back field, creating their own game & rules - batting around foam balls with their broomsticks and having a grand time. The adults maybe had even more fun than the kids - watching their imaginations come alive was really awesome! 

    Once the snitch had been lost (honestly! It was lost in a neighbor's backyard & we couldn't retrieve it!), everyone came back inside for treats:

    (treats from Honeydukes - including Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans - YUCK!)

    When all was said and done, the kids were tired and happy, and the adults were exhausted! I had a blast planning and acting and "teaching". And... our efforts were well rewarded by my daughter's assertion that it was the BEST day. (yay!!!! forever memories, created!)

    PS: Writing this post had me reliving our first kids' "theme" party and I'm just so glad I got to share this with you. If you ever have (or had) the opportunity to host a Harry Potter party, let me know. I'd love to see!!

    PPS:  We've been watching the movies in order now - we're finished with the second so far; I'm a bigger Harry Potter fan now than ever before. I'm still reading book four. My 8 year old has graciously agreed to stop reading after book 6 to... let me catch up. ;) 

    PPS: Spell check had a field day with this post. Why in the world is quidditch not in the dictionary yet? ;)

    Posted: Oct 10 2012, 22:43 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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    Vegan Apple Oat Cookies

    5 Tbs vegan butter, slightly softened (we used Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread*)

    1/2 cup brown sugar

    1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    1/4 cup apple sauce

    1/3 cup of flour

    1/4 tsp baking soda

    1 1/4 cups of rolled oats

    1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

    1/4 cup dried apple rings, finely chopped

    *note: this does impart a slight coconut flavor, so, you can use margarine instead if you don't care for coconut

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Mix the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add the applesauce & mix. Add the rolled oats and mix a bit more. Allow to sit for a few minutes. Add the flour and baking soda and mix once more. Finally, fold in the nuts and apples. Drop by tablespoonfuls on to the cookie sheet. Bake for around 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 16 sweet, soft, apple-y cookies. Enjoy!

    This recipe was adapted from The Big Book of Cookies by Catherine Atkinson. The original recipe calls for butter, eggs, additional white sugar, salt, and raisins. I added the nuts, and eliminated the animal products, raisins, and extra sugar.

    Posted: Jul 16 2012, 22:23 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    I Imagine a Future of Compassion - On Becoming Vegan

    Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.

    ~Albert Schweitzer

    It's not too often in this short life you have truly life-changing experiences. Maybe the opportunities for such occurrences don't come about with frequency. Perhaps our hearts aren't always open. But occasionally, the giver of such opportunity and the recipient are in synch. All planets in alignment, so to speak, and the intended message, and subsequent experience, comes across loud & clear. This past week, such an opportunity presented itself to myself and my family.

    We had the occasion to visit a place called the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York. It's a beautiful place, rural (rural, anyhow to my Philadelphia-suburbs-living self), hilly, graced with wildflowers, lakes, streams, and lush woods. We came to the Farm Sanctuary thinking we would be simply visiting a zoo of sorts - a place where our children could come pet the rescued farm animals. What we left with was a far greater and deeper understanding of animals, the current state of factory farming, an introduction to the phenomenon of carnism (the human belief system that certain animals are okay to love and protect, while others are okay to kill and eat), and a real connection with farm animals that I've never in my 30-something years on this planet experienced before. Have you ever had the chance to pet and talk to a turkey (yes, a turkey)? I had the opportunity to do just that, and it was an eye-opening experience.

    Farm animals, truly, farms in general (again, being a suburban gal), have always been a bit elusive and distant to me. I'd venture to say the case is similar for most people living in the United States in the 21st century. In the US, most of us live in the suburbs or city and our encounters with farms, or farm animals, are brief and fleeting - a school field trip here, a farmer's market there. Most of our food purchases come from grocery stores, not directly from farmers. So, for the majority of North Americans, the connection with the living, feeling beings that live on farms - cows, pigs, chickens - and the food on our plates is tenuous; in some cases non-existent. Our grocery stores don't help the matter, either - there's no brilliantly colored photograph of the cow that donated her life on the wrapper of the shiny wrapped ground beef that you purchase in the store, no connection between the farm and the food. The fact is, for most folks, a bowl of cereal is a banana is a hamburger; just something to eat. The story of the cow's life before the burger doesn't even cross the mind. Of course, that being said, being a greenhorn when it comes to farming doesn't automatically correlate with ignorance surrounding food origins. For myself, being a vegetarian for over 20 years, I may not have ever spent time around a cow, but I've understood for a good long time that cows are alive, and that I wasn't comfortable eating them. But I know I'm in the minority; just look at any menu in any mainstream restaurant - the vast majority of items available for consumption are animal-based or contain animal derivatives - the names have been changed, of course. As the meat department in your local store doesn't show photographs of cows, the menu in your local restaurant doesn't call its hamburgers cowburgers. So, while the lack of physical or even suggested connection with the source of our food may not be the only motivating factor in why so many people choose animal-based diets, it certainly is a considerable factor; perhaps the most substantial. People don't see the meat on their plates as once being alive.

    One of the Farm Sanctuary's goals is to end that disconnect; to "bridge that gap most people have in understanding and empathizing with farm animals, which is a result of the fact that they rarely have an opportunity to interact with them in their everyday lives" [Bruce Friedrich] I can tell you that when you have the opportunity to: walk amongst a herd of cows out in a field and see a baby calf peeking out from around her mother's leg, have your hand licked by the rough tongue of a huge cow so incredibly gentle and receptive to human interaction, pet dozing pigs' bellies, or stroke the rough fur of a 3,000 pound bull... you don't forget the experience. It touches your soul. Vegetarian or not. Animal lover or not. You just can't help but be affected when a (former) dairy goat leans her body against your leg (not unlike my dog used to do) - connecting, communicating without words. When you walk around Farm Sanctuary - freely able to interact with the animals - that gap they're trying to bridge… doesn't feel like a gap at all.

    While at the farm, we not only had the opportunity to meet the animals face-to-face, but we also received a real education about the state of animal treatment and animal consumption in the United States. The number of animals slaughtered for consumption in this country alone (I looked the numbers up later, after getting home) is staggering, and sobering: In 2010, the USDA stat on land animals slaughtered for food (cattle, pigs, chickens/hens, and turkeys) was...

    Are you sitting down? You should be.

    10,153,000,000 Yes, that's billions (and does not include fish/sea life killed for consumption)

    While that number may be astounding, what is perhaps more astounding - and disturbing - is the knowledge that a far-too-large number of those animals (~875 million) die due to malnutrition, mistreatment, disease, injury, or outright slaughter (male chicks are discarded shortly after birth as they are not considered valuable for breeding or meat production purposes). We learned that most farm animals are slaughtered far sooner than their natural life span would dictate; and babies are routinely taken from mothers much earlier than their natural weaning age (which causes great distress to the nursing mother/baby pair, as well as increases the likelihood of illness in the babies from not having sustained breastmilk nourishment). That cows must be pregnant or lactating in order to produce enough milk to keep up with demand and are forced into a highly unnatural cycle of continuous impregnation, birth, and milking; along with hormone injections in many cases, to keep up with demand. That cows' tails are routinely docked without anesthetic in the name of hygiene. That pregnant pigs are often confined to gestation crates for the duration of their pregnancies - with barely enough room to lie down. That the living conditions of most chickens raised for meat are deplorable and sickening - extreme overcrowding, excessive feces, warehouse-like buildings with no access to outside, forced rapid growth that leads to deformities and health conditions. That many ill and injured animals are not protected against slaughter and are as such forced to suffer, often abused on their way to death. I could go on. It's sad that our society condones the mistreatment of so many animals just for the pleasure of eating.

    But still, I feel hopeful. In spite of those chilling facts, and while my heart aches for so many animals I've never met, having experienced the Farm Sanctuary's mission in person gives me hope that things are changing - and that they can continue to change for the better. Through their sanctuaries and website, they are bringing a greater awareness of animal rights to a younger generation (and my own!) by allowing people to really connect with animals in a way that most people don't have the opportunity to do. Their stories of animal rescue from abusive or neglectful situations are awe-inspiring; it was amazing to meet some of the sweet souls who have been rescued - so gentle and trusting, in spite of their past. The people working at the farm were so friendly; not judgmental, just informative. They truly care about animals, the earth, and yes, humans too.

    I left the Farm Sanctuary with my head spinning; saddened, astounded... inspired. It was a touching experience, and as I mentioned at the start, life-changing: as after leaving, and much discussion, we have decided as a family to change the way we eat to an all plant-based diet. We are migrating from being a family of vegetarians to a family of vegans - my husband, my daughter, my son, and myself. Knowing what we now know, it is the right choice, the best choice. I don't want to live making excuses for my choices when I can make a choice that doesn't require apology or defense (going vegan is easy, healthy, economical, peaceful, eco-friendly, and fun!). I know I can do better with my life, we can do better by our environment and our animal cohabitants; as a society I have hope. We can all choose not to ignore the connection between what's on our plate and the animals who have worked or given their lives (and perhaps suffered) to provide our nourishment. We can all vote with our dollars - choosing to buy and consume fewer, or even no, animal products. We can tell others about our choices, and point them in the direction of amazing places like the Farm Sanctuary. We can be heartened by knowing that our small choices - awareness of the source of your food and how those animals are treated, choices to reduce your meat, dairy, and egg consumption, to eat vegetarian, or vegan - can have large repercussions, not only on your own personal health, but on the health of the planet, the health of animals, and our collective future.

    I can imagine a future of compassion and sustainability; I teach my children that it is reachable. Can you and do you?

    If you have the opportunity, I highly encourage you to visit one of the sanctuaries to experience the animals in person, and to educate yourself about the state of farm animal treatment in our country, and the healthy, compassionate, and sustainable choice of a vegan diet.


    For more information on veganism and compassionate living:


    The Farm Sanctuary's Compassionate Communities Campaign

    Veganism in a Nutshell at The Vegetarian Resource Group

    ChooseVeg.com - Info on vegetarian and vegan living

    The Vegan Society - Become a Vegan

    Explore What Vegan Means

    Why Vegan? at the Beautiful-Vegan.com

    Top 10 Vegan Cooking Substitutes at VegNews.com

    Vegan Action

    Becoming a Vegan? Ask Dr. Weil

    On Going Vegan at VegSource.com

    Veg101: Becoming Vegan Starter Guide at The Happy Cow

    Vegan Recipes at VeganLunchBox