Who said vegan food didn’t taste good?

I recently checked out a book from the NY Public Library – a bestselling book on weight loss, entitled “Skinny Bitch.”  I had heard from a few sources that it would completely change the way you look at food and what you put into your body.  I read about four chapters before I realized that it was a brainwash into veganism.  Which worked on me.

I briefly dated a sudo-vegan in college, and I thought it was crazy not to eat meat or animal products.  Now, here I am, over one month into a vegan lifestyle.  I have made a couple exceptions for myself however: I didn’t throw out any of my leather, and I still eat honey.  Other than that, it’s animal-free for me!  And I haven’t felt this good in a while… I have more energy, I spend more time creating unique meals, and I’ve already lost a few pounds.
I try not to talk about it too much, because I have found that most people instantly snap into an argumentative mode, and I quite frankly don’t want to argue with someone about what I do or do not put into my body.  It’s not hard at all to supplement your diet with other sources of protein and nutrients that are normally found in animal products.  The idea that humans have to drink cow’s milk to have healthy bones is an absolute lie that has been instilled by “Got milk?” ads.  I am perfectly healthy and have never felt better!  And the food I have been eating is delicious.  Sure, it might be hard to find something easily at a restaurant, but it can be done (I don’t even eat out at restaurants very often).
I have been enjoying more vegetables and fruits than ever before, and I can’t believe how quickly one month went by!  My original plan was to try veganism out for a month, see how I felt, and then decide whether or not to keep going.  I take it one day at a time, but I haven’t fallen to any cravings.  Did I mention I also haven’t had caffeine in a month?  This is coming from the girl who used to drink a french press of coffee every day.  
Now… if only the holidays weren’t approaching with their butter and cream-filled temptations…

Adventures in Extreme Eating

On Saturday, I picked up my second week of vegetables from the Upper Meadow Farm CSA distribution. I was so looking forward to trying more new and nutritious organic veggies. This week, my share included: stinging nettle, lambsquarter, cardoon, baby garlic, sorrel, and dandelion greens. Not bad!

When living in Santa Barbara last year, I was blessed with the convenience of a garden in my very own backyard. One of the things I frequently found was a hearty supply of stinging nettle – though the only purpose of nettle I knew of was its supreme ability to give me hives. It seems funny that I now live across the country and am paying for this stuff. Well, stinging nettle actually has some amazing medicinal and nutritional value. Yes, you have to handle it with care before cooking (i.e. gloves and tongs), but once cooked, the poisonous venom transforms into a nutritious substance. Here’s where my “extreme eating” comes into play. It’s like the vegetarian version of fugu, minus the risk of death.

So today, I tried out a recipe which incorporated three of my fresh ingredients. It turned out magnificently! Please give it a try if you have this stuff growing around your backyard or at the local farmer’s market:

Pasta with Nettles, Sorrel and Lemon
Serves 2 to 4

1/4 lb. fresh stinging nettles
8 oz. pasta
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 lb. fresh ricotta cheese
1 lemon for zest and juice
1 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small handful of fresh sorrel leaves, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup toasted walnuts

Bring two large pots of salted water to a boil. One will be fore the pasta and the other for the nettles. When the water comes to a boil in one of the pots, “carefully” add the nettles and give them a stir. Cook for 5 minutes and transfer them to a colander with a slotted spoon. You want to leave any dirt or grit in the cooking water. Let the nettle drain. Add the pasta to the other pot of clean water and cook until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, press most of the water out of the nettles, transfer them to a food processor and puree. Drizzle in the olive oil and process until completely smooth. Add the ricotta, lemon zest and juice, and herbs. Pulse the processor to blend all the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Remove a cup of the water the pasta is cooking in and reserve. Drain the pasta and then return it to the pot. Toss in the nettle ricotta cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add the fresh sorrel and a little of the reserved pasta water to create the desired consistency of the sauce. Stir in the walnuts and serve.

It turned out great! I enjoyed this for lunch and shared some with Brian, who also loved it. Very fresh-tasting and refreshing. It also feels good to know you are eating something so fresh and healthy. Bon appetit!

CSA Distribution Begins!

I was very pleased to wake up early this morning and head down to Hell’s Kitchen for my first distribution/volunteer experience with my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Upper Meadow Farm.  Starting in June, then running through November, my CSA provides a weekly supply of fresh organic produce.  As a member, part of the agreement is a minimum of four hours volunteer work, which I partly served this morning by running set up of the distribution and making sure all the veggies were well stocked and artfully presented.  It was wonderful to be out in the early morning, handling vegetables “so fresh they didn’t even know they were dead” (as the farmer, Len, likes to say).  

Each week, the shares vary according to the crops of that week.  I have an “individual share,” which means I pick several of the items instead of taking them all.  This week for instance, the share items were lettuce (a variety to choose from), garlic chives, pea vine tips, chicory/dandelion, greek oregano, giant red mustard, and an added bonus of asparagus.  I picked out a beautiful head of green oak leaf lettuce (I spotted it while arranging the greens), giant red mustard, garlic chives, pea vine tips, and got 3 spears of asparagus (you were supposed to take only what you need).  I also picked up a dozen farm fresh eggs from Upper Meadow ($5/dozen – I swear the best eggs I’ve ever eaten) and a jar of delicious and organic honey extracted from honeycombs right on the farm.  
I am so excited to try all these delicious treats, and even more excited to see how this season spoils me with the best produce I can eat!  Stay tuned for more updates with future distributions, and hopefully, some new and interested recipes!

Experimenting with Soups… and powdered sugar…

Separately, of course.

On Saturday morning, I decided to wake up early and check out the Union Square Greenmarket, where I found some lovely vegetables, including carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, leeks, and greens. Yesterday, I threw a bunch of chopped veggies into a pot, covered it with some water and broth, and simmered for about an hour. Thanks to my random addition of dried red chilies, this soup turned out interestingly spicy and delicious! I pureed the mixture, topped it with some chicken, cheese, a dollop of sour cream and tortilla strips – the best Mexican tortilla soup I’ve ever had! Served this alongside a couple mini grilled cheeses from a fresh baguette – simply delicious.
Then I moved on to dessert… I don’t bake that often, but Brian pointed out a recipe in April’s Bon Appétit that looked too good to turn down… Above, you can see the delectable little lemon cupcakes, complete with a raspberry jam center, and my twist on NYC’s famous black and white cookie – a pink and yellow cupcake! I tried to pay homage to Bon Appétit’s recipe by throwing the issue in the background of the last picture. These cupcakes were delightfully simple – try out the recipe:


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, divided
4 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel, divided
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
12 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
Fresh raspberries (for garnish)


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Using electric mixer, beat butter, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, and 3 teaspoons lemon peel in large bowl until blended, then beat until fluffy and pale yellow. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Beat in half of flour. Add buttermilk and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; beat to blend. Beat in remaining flour.

Drop 1 rounded tablespoonful batter into each muffin liner. Spoon 1 teaspoon raspberry jam over. Cover with remaining batter, dividing equally.

Bake cupcakes until tester inserted halfway into centers comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan on rack. Meanwhile, whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon peel in small bowl. Spoon half of icing over 6 cupcakes. Whisk 1 tablespoon raspberry jam into remaining icing. Spoon over remaining cupcakes. Let stand until icing sets, about 30 minutes. Garnish with raspberries.



After writing that last entry on soufflés, I had a real hankering for one. So, I examined my cupboard to see how I could mix it up… and I made a tuna soufflé. Yes, I know you probably groaned and grimaced to see tuna, but it was delicious! I basically used the same recipe for the cheese soufflé, but added green onions when cooking the butter and canned tuna to the base before mixing in the cheese and egg whites. So good!